Spock would have preferred to remain on board while the other senior officers took shore leave, but Jim had insisted he accompany them. Jim, as had become customary, had placed an arm around Spock's back in a manner which was intended to be friendly. He had curled his fingers over Spock's shoulder, pressing just enough.
Even through Spock's regulation tunic and thermal layer, Jim's mind reached for him as it had in Engineering. Spock had never confessed how much of Jim's katra had passed to him as he crouched, palm to palm with Jim as Spock watched him die.
"I always hoped you'd fall in love," Nyota had told him wistfully as they stood vigil at Jim's bedside.
"I am sorry," he had offered in reply.
Spock watched her sway against Mr. Scott on the dance floor and caught the flash of her smile. She had never smiled at him in quite that way. The expression appeared to originate from a place deeper than facial muscles. He did not need to touch her to discern her emotions: Nyota was happy.
Spock felt his cheeks color and looked away, to the glass of wine on the table before him. He had only consumed half of the glass, approximately two point five ounces. The server had informed him that the wine contained twelve point one percent alcohol by volume, not enough to intoxicate him. And yet Spock was aware of a warmth in his extremities, a pleasant numbness in his mouth. Perhaps the server had been mistaken. Spock had not requested her to produce the bottle, thus the information was secondhand. He sighed—how human—and returned his attention to the dance floor.
Nyota and Mr. Scott had been joined by Mr. Chekov, a smiling humanoid woman with light hair, a scowling Dr. McCoy, and Jim. Out of uniform, he appeared quite young. He looked nothing like a starship captain, perhaps a transient human who had bartered passage to Argelius II. He wore a dark jacket and pants made of deep blue cotton—jeans, Jim called them—and his hair was pushed back from his forehead. It appeared tousled, as though Jim had just come inside from a windstorm.
Jim's hair had grown longer than regulation permitted. It had begun to lay heavily against his forehead and curl at the nape of his neck. Spock had not insisted he cut it. At first, he told himself it was because he sought to regain Jim's trust. But as he continued to observe Jim's behavior in the nightclub (such as the way he stood with an arm slung over McCoy's shoulder, which caused Spock to frown), Spock admitted to himself the possibility that his motivation was of a more personal nature.
Jim's laughter reached him despite the music and din of conversation. It caused Spock's throat to constrict. Jealousy had no place here. It was not logical. Spock had no claim on Jim outside of their professional relationship. He chastised his human half for accepting Jim's invitation.
"C'mon," Jim had said in a tone Spock could only describe as affectionate. "Are you really gonna make me take leave by myself?"
For a fleeting moment, Spock had allowed himself to imagine them on leave together: dining quietly in each other's presence, seeking out a museum or cultural oddity, touching hands as they said goodnight. He had foolishly accepted. Now he sat alone in a corner booth, in a nightclub of questionable reputation, drinking a substance that had obviously compromised him. He wished Nyota had never spoken to him of love.
He should return to his room, wait until his body had metabolized the alcohol, and request to beam back to the ship. But the server brought another glass of wine without his having ordered it. He said as much, but she merely indicated a position over her shoulder.
"The one in the leather jacket," she said and winked at him.
From the crowd gathered around him, Jim held up his hand, curled into a fist, with his thumb pointed toward the ceiling. Spock nodded that he had received Jim's offering. Jim smiled and shook his head and indicated the dance floor. Spock shook his head this time, and he wondered if he had correctly identified disappointment in the way Jim's eyebrows knit together.
Spock drank what remained of his first glass before bringing the second to his lips. He did not have plans to be elsewhere. Jim had already purchased the drink, and it would not make Spock sick to consume it. Jim had likely sent it in an attempt to ensure Spock had a pleasant evening. Spock was dressed in Terran clothing (a collared shirt, tie, and jacket), with his hair styled similarly to Jim's (he felt ridiculous, but Nyota had insisted it looked appropriate). What harm was there another drink?
This wine was sweeter than the last glass. It had a higher viscosity, more like a thin syrup. It tasted of fruit, like the peaches McCoy had insisted he try (they were, Spock had to agree, quite good). Inwardly, he warmed at the idea that Jim had selected this drink for him. It lifted his spirits somewhat. He took another sip and began to tap his right foot in time with the music. It was a slow and melancholy song, reminiscent of twentieth-century Terran jazz. To move in time with it served no purpose, but the club was dimly lit. No one could observe his movements beneath the table.
He did not hear Jim approach until he slid into the booth across from Spock and slouched low, grinning.
"Having fun?" he asked. Spock met his eyes but did not answer. Jim yawned and settled against the wall, leaning his head on it. "How's your wine?"
"The flavor is excellent," Spock answered. Jim brightened, sitting a bit straighter. He pointed to the glass.
"May I?" he asked, ostensibly asking for a taste. Spock indicated that he could.
Jim dragged the glass across the table by the stem, gently enough that it did not tip, but with enough force that the pale wine sloshed against the tall sides. Jim spun it around one hundred eighty degrees and raised it to his mouth. His lips fit the impression Spock's had left. Heat built in Spock's groin at the sight; he clenched his abdominal muscles and began to inventory the experiments actively running in labs one through fourteen. Jim was watching him through half-lidded eyes, swirling the glass in his fingers, and drank again.
"It's not bad," he commented. "Fruity."
Spock pressed his lips together; Jim licked his.
"Are you going to sit here all night?" he asked, passing the wine back. As he did, he again rotated it in a half circle, so their combined lip prints faced Spock. Spock dropped his gaze to them and traced a finger around the rim of the glass.
"I had considered it," he replied. He touched the outline of Jim's lips but did not drink. Jim began to laugh quietly to himself and drummed his fingers on the table four times.
"Man," he said. "What's a guy gotta do to get you to dance with him?"
Spock blinked and stilled his hand. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'm asking if you want to dance," Jim said, looking back at Spock. His cheeks were pink.
"No, with Bones," Jim said and rolled his eyes. "Yes, with me. I've been trying to get you out of this booth all evening."
Spock frowned and folded his hands together on the table. "Are you indicating a general desire for me to dance, " he asked slowly, "or do you wish me to dance with you exclusively, as Nyota is dancing with Mr. Scott?"
"I'm asking you to dance in whatever way you'd feel comfortable."
"Jim," Spock began, at a rare loss for words. "Forgive me, but I do not wish to misunderstand. Are you expressing a romantic interest in me?"
"I thought my interest in you was pretty obvious," Jim said.
"If I accept your offer to dance," Spock said, "our actions will be visible to forty-seven crew members."
"Is that a problem?" Jim asked, and for the first time, Spock thought he saw uncertainty on Jim's face.
"It will lead to gossip."
"Since when do you care about gossip?"
"I do not," Spock replied. "I was thinking of you."
"Can you think of me while we dance?" Jim asked. "Just one song."
Spock began to cycle through the regulations they would break by doing so. Beneath the table, Jim nudged his foot.
"Please?" he added and smiled in a way that was both sweet and seductive. Spock inclined his head, drew in a breath, and stood. He smoothed the front of his shirt and extended a hand. Jim grinned victoriously and took it, leading Spock to the dance floor.
Jim's style of dancing was informal. It consisted of him resting his left hand on the small of Spock's back, the other clasping his hand loosely. Spock held Jim similarly. The leather jacket was smooth to his touch, supple. They moved together in time to the music, the space between their bodies closing until their chests pressed comfortably. Jim's cheek rested against his. Spock caught Nyota watching them with a satisfied expression. She smiled at Spock and looked away, returning her head to Mr. Scott's shoulder.
Spock trailed his hand down the tendons in Jim's wrist and focused on his pulse, beating steadily under Spock's fingers. Jim was warm, breathing, and wonderfully alive. He shifted in Spock's arms and wrapped both of his around Spock's waist. The song ended with a soft brush of cymbals, and Spock was reluctant to let go of Jim, so he did not. Jim continued to shift his weight back and forth in the silence. Spock wondered if they looked absurd to the other patrons, dancing without music in the darkened club.
"Stop thinking," Jim murmured into his ear. "I can practically feel your mind working."
The music resumed. They danced the next three songs, until McCoy tapped Jim on the shoulder.
"They just gave last call. Should I expect you in the room tonight?" he asked gruffly, though Spock believed him to be smirking.
"Dunno," Jim answered, stepping away from Spock and putting his hands in his jacket pockets. He rocked forward onto his toes. "I've heard the sunrise here is not to be missed."
"Suit yourself," McCoy said. "I'm going to bed."
"Night, Bones," Jim said and looked to the bar, then back to Spock. "I should settle my tab."
"I must do the same."
"Meet you outside in five?"
Jim had not specified a unit of time, but Spock deduced that he meant standard minutes and nodded once. He located the server who had brought his drink and presented his credit chip. He tipped her liberally—he was suddenly in a generous mood—and fastened his jacket to the throat.
Jim waited outside beneath a streetlight. It cast him in a yellow glow.
"Ready?" he inquired. "I asked the bartender, and he said the best place to catch the sunrise is from the outlook. He said it's not far, just a few blocks."
"It is outdoors?" Spock asked as the wind blew cold across his face. He shivered involuntarily. Jim's smile fell, and he shook his head.
"I wasn't thinking," he said, touching Spock's elbow. "You'll freeze your ass off out here. Um, raincheck?"
Spock quirked an eyebrow.
"I mean, let's hold off on the sunrise today. We'll do it another time, when we're someplace warmer."
"I would like to observe the sunrise with you," Spock said.
"My hotel room faces the wrong direction, otherwise we could watch it from there," Jim said, raking a hand through his hair. Spock realized he would like to do the same. He inhaled deeply and caught a note of Jim on the breeze. He steeled himself, feeling bold.
"At check-in," he began, "I was informed that I have a southern view."
"Yeah?" Jim asked, opening both eyes wider in what Spock read as hope.
"Yes," he said.
Jim yawned over the mug of coffee he cradled in both hands and rested his forearms on his knees. He had drawn them to his chest and leaned slightly against Spock, who sat beside him on the bed. They faced the window.
"Any minute now," Jim said through a gaping mouth, eyes half open. He smiled lazily and drank, training his eyes on the pink horizon. Spock adjusted the blanket that covered their backs. Jim had shed his jacket when they first entered the room, but he still wore a white shirt and pants. His feet were bare; he curled his toes into the coverlet.
"After this, you must sleep," Spock admonished, sipping his own tea. It was freshly steeped, not synthesized. Jim had insisted upon ordering room service.
"I don't think I could stay awake much longer if I tried."
"I should not have allowed you to remain awake all night," Spock said with a frown. "Shore leave is meant to be restorative."
"Believe me," Jim said, putting his mug on the nightstand and reaching for Spock's hand. "It has been."
The sun was bright and beautiful as it rose above the horizon. The sky became a collage of gold and peach and red. Jim's breathing grew quiet, and he leaned heavily against Spock's side. His eyes were closed; he was asleep. Jim's hand was still clasped within his. Spock stroked the back of it once, then maneuvered Jim so he lay on Spock's lap. Spock stared at him, at his dark eyelashes, the pink flush of his skin, the scar on his temple which Spock wished he did not remember. Hesitantly, Spock tangled his fingers in Jim's hair, let it part and slide between them.
It felt right.