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The apartment door closes with a quiet hiss which signifies that the recently-installed anti-theft securities are working correctly. The door could – and should – be automatic by this point, but Jim is fond of antiquities. Though there is a tiny bio-sensor installed in the door-frame which detects the individual signatures of everyone who approaches, the door also features a simple metal doorknob. It feels like ice under his fingers.


This is always an unpleasant indicator of how the walk will fare, and Spock grimly sets out, hunching his shoulders against the wind and neatly rifling through his bag for a pair of gloves. He has lived in San Francisco for several years now, but the winters, though mild and even warm by human standards, will never be comfortable for him.


Still, he doesn't feel that he deserves the askance glances he gains from passerby as he walks briskly down the street, winding his way to the Academy grounds clad in a long overcoat, gloves and scarf. It is days like these when he regrets turning down Jim's idea of obtaining a personal vehicle.


(Then of course he always recalls Jim's comparative piloting skills with anything less than subspace engines, and the thought disappears quickly.)


It is a sign of severe cold when he can scent blood in his nostrils, perhaps from frozen capillaries bursting or constricting. He walks quicker as he reaches the Academy gate.


“Good morning, Captain,” greets the Junior Lieutenant at the entrance. The man is dressed neatly in the standard red Starfleet uniform, and just blinks when Spock only nods curtly at him and walks by.


On Tuesdays Spock teaches two classes, both of them in the morning. The first, a command-course geared toward reviewing possible diplomatic situations that might be found on deep-space missions, occurs in a small class on one end of campus; the other, an advanced astrophysics course required for most students on the science track, takes place in a large and drafty lecture hall on the opposite end.


It does not help matters when Spock is halted mid-way to his class by a young Caitian colleague, Professor Lerren, who blinks up at him through pleasantly liquid brown eyes.


“Ah, Captain. May I have a moment of your time?”


Spock eyes the thin layer of fur that covers the Caitian's face and morphs easily into a respectable mane. He informs himself that proper Vulcans do not feel resentment. “Certainly,” he says.


Professor Lerren is an amiable man; unfortunately he has no concept of either time or cold, and it takes every ounce of Spock's motor control to keep from shivering as the man insists on asking him about an upcoming programmers' conference.


“So,” Lerren says, in the pleasant, unhurried speech typical to Caitians, “If you would like to chair one of the groups, I'm sure the board would be thrilled...”


“This sounds agreeable,” Spock says at the first possible opening. Lerren blinks mildly; he is clearly not through speaking, and opens his mouth again. “If you will excuse me, we can arrange the details later; I do have a class...”


“Oh. Yes. Certainly, certainly...” Lerren rolls his shoulders in a languorous shrug, but Spock is already gone.


He arrives late – which is unusual – and expects to find his students impatient or, at the very least, surprised by this fact. As it turns out, he is the one surprised.


A rush of warm air greets him as he enters the class. So, too, does a familiar voice. “Of course,” Jim is saying, “That's not necessarily the by-the-book method, but... it got the job done. Well, our job. The ambassador had his own job, as far as we were concerned...”


There are a few snickers.


Spock sighs almost instinctively. He is almost certain he does not need to know what Jim is telling these cadets, and equally certain they are probably better off knowing the story; both certainties are equally frustrating.


As though sensing his exasperation instinctively, the human looks up. “Captain Spock.” Jim flashes him a quick grin, straightening. “I hope you'll forgive me for monopolizing your class. We were just discussing proper procedures for, ah... creative diplomacy in space, weren't we?”


The class nods eagerly as Jim, grinning, swings around the podium and heads for a seat in the back of the room.


“Not at all, Admiral,” Spock replies, and catches his own reaction too late to prevent the warmth that seeps into his voice as he strides forward. From the class he hears one or two small, stifled sounds that sound suspiciously like the vocalizations the neighbor's child makes when she sees kittens.


Spock takes off his gloves to better handle the projector equipment, revealing green-veined skin that prickles in the cold. Everything arranged, he turns to address the students.


“Shall we begin?”




 


As the last students drift out, sneaking glances over their shoulders at the legendary and graying Admiral Kirk, the man himself walks up to Spock. “You didn't take the bus,” he chides, glancing up as the door closes behind the final cadet.


Spock does not question how he knows this information. “I prefer to walk.”


“You prefer not to admit anything can affect you, ever.” It's said with a hint of fondness. Jim reach down to take both Spock's cooler hands in his own, rubbing the backs gently with his thumbs. “And, I don't know if anyone has told you this, but mind over matter doesn't really apply to the weather.”


“Creative diplomacy, indeed,” Spock murmurs, glancing down at the intimate grasp.


Jim smiles. “Tonight,” he says, taking away one hand to reach up and touch his partner's cheek, “I'm going to tell Admiral Zhao that we can't make the dinner reception for the board, and we can stay inside in front of a fire, just the two of us...”


Spock should, probably, make protestations about the necessity of formal functions, how reservations have been made, and how he and Jim have duties.


Instead, he leans into the touch, inhaling deeply as Jim presses against him and pushes him back against a desk. He tilts his head into the crook of Jim's neck, winding his arms around the man's warm body. The hand on his face falls to the small of his back, pulling him close.


Spock closes his eyes. Exhales. Makes a token protest, anyway: “I am not certain that is proper, under Starfleet regulations.”


Jim smiles against his skin. “I think we can let it go just this once,” he says.


Spock hums.


He doesn't really want to argue, anyway.


“You know. Sometimes I think we should retire somewhere else... We've given enough to Starfleet, anyway. Somewhere warmer year-round, and...”


“No.”


“Sorry?”


Spock huffs out a breath. He shifts one arm, clenching his partner tighter, drawing in the warmth. He can hear Jim's heartbeat, if he tries, beating loud and human-slow. “If you are going to suggest Vulcan, that would be quite illogical.”


“I think sometimes that you would be happier there.”


“'Happier', Jim?”


“...Oh, shush.”


He does not smile. “No. I am content on earth. As long as...”


He is interrupted by the harsh squeal of an opening door.


“Sir, are you – oh!”


He draws away from Jim slowly – a little more slowly than decorum would demand, perhaps – and sees a young Andorian blushing bright blue. “I'm sorry!” Ze yelps, and backtracks hastily, slamming the door behind zir.


Ah. This will be all over campus grounds by dinner, then; another part of living with gossip-loving species. Kaiidth.


More important matters still exist, though. “As I was saying; the inconvenient parts of living on earth matter little, so long as...”


Spock trails off.


Jim's shoulders are shaking with mirth. When he sees that Spock has caught him, he gives in, leaning forward and laughing into Spock's chest.


“Jim?”


“I get it,” Jim says, breathless. He reaches down, entwining their fingers together. “And – I love you, too.”


Ah. Yes.


Sometimes, Earth is a difficult place to live.


But the rewards it brings are well worth the trials.


 

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