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Story Notes:

Title comes from, of all people, Andy Warhol, who said, "Once is usually enough. Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting."

Post-TOS, non-TMP-compliant. Brief mention of kink.

It took Jim eighteen days to realize what was going on.

More precisely, it took him eighteen days and a visual aid.  But in his defense—something he felt especially inclined to mount right about then—it wasn’t the kind of thing you expected from a Vulcan.

Then again, Spock had told him once that Vulcan academies had their own equivalent of late night college talk, just as circular and ornately philosophical; they played a kind of game of finding logical justifications for every folly under the sun.  Jim smiled at remembering it.

(“Example,” he said.

Spock looked pained.  “It is excruciatingly juvenile.”

“Yes, but I didn’t get to know you when you were young.  Meanwhile, you’ve seen a picture of me with chubby cheeks winning the second-grade spelling bee.  Fair’s fair, Spock.”

“I have no way of controlling what your mother encloses in her correspondence to me,” Spock said, his tone practically starched.  The very picture of moral uprightness.  Jim didn’t buy it for a second.  He raised his eyebrows, wordlessly waiting, and Spock gave in.  “Do you recall when Ensign Pauling threw his dessert tray on the mess hall floor?”

“Of course.  I wound up spattered with pudding shrapnel.”

“He was upset that the synthesizer had served him butterscotch when he wanted chocolate.”

“Well, he was running a fever so high Bones was worried he’d cook himself from the inside out.  You remember, it was when that run of Denebian fever swept the whole ship, left us running at half-capacity for a week and a half.”

“Which suggests that neither you nor Ensign Pauling would defend his action as logical.  You only excuse it because of his illness.”

Jim nodded.

“But a Vulcan youth, as a philosophical exercise, might say—ridiculously—that, contrary to appearance, Mr. Pauling’s action was highly logical.  And then you would say—”

He could follow that prompt.  “Explain.”

“The synthesizer could not be reasoned with, but its programmer may have been in the room.  Mr. Pauling could not be sure who, specifically, was responsible for the faulty coding, so he was unable to approach the individual to speak with them about it normally.  He could have loudly drawn attention to the issue, but may have deemed a gesture to be more noteworthy in a crowded room.  In addition, choosing a memorable, theatrical action could impress enough shame on the hypothetical culprit to strongly motivate them to better work.  And pudding is easily removed from hard surfaces, so Pauling could be sure of avoiding any permanent damage.  Therefore, throwing the tray to the ground was a sensible means of minimizing the chance of the inciting frustration repeating itself.  Highly logical.”

Saying those last two words made Spock look like he’d just bitten into a lemon.

“It’s an absurd game that is certainly never played after graduation.  It is only useful to the extent of bringing students to recognize that although logic may be pivotal to us, it is a tool rather than a principle.  And like any other tool, it can be used badly.”

“Badly but compellingly,” Jim said.  “I feel like my brain’s been twisted into a pretzel.  I’m guessing you were the all-time champion of these dorm room conversations?  You handled that one well enough.”

“On the contrary,” Spock said quietly.  “Frequently, I played to lose.  I didn’t want my facility for the game to be taken as further evidence that I did not belong.”

Jim touched the back of his wrist and was relieved when Spock turned his hand over and interlaced their fingers.

“If I have grown out of the game, Jim, I have grown out of that fear as well.  I am—quite certain of my place.”

“I hope so,” Jim said softly.

“It is illogical, Captain, to waste your emotional resources hoping for what is already true.”  And, with that, he smiled in the unguarded way that Jim was still not used to, and leaned forward to briefly brush their lips together.)

The game of making things sound logical when they really weren’t—a game Spock had given up years before they’d ever met.  But one, maybe, that he now felt comfortable enough to play again.

At least, that was what the trinkets currently arrayed across Jim’s desk would seem to suggest.

They’d had their wedding eighteen days ago, on Vulcan: a formal ceremony that had this time thankfully hadn’t involved any surprise fights to the death.  The whole thing had gone smoothly—or so he’d been told afterwards.  His own memories of it were limited to Spock standing across from him, the strong sunlight shining on his dark hair and picking out the handful of silver strands.  Jim had ached from the sight of him, had wanted to cut all the ritual short just so he could close the gap between them.

But Scotty, who cried at weddings, had been positively fulsome with both praise and tears, so Jim considered the wedding to have gone exceptionally well, whether he remembered it or not.

Here and now, though, the most salient fact about his wedding was one he did remember—the “eighteen days ago” part.  They had said their vows—and every day since then, Spock had presented him with some small token of regard.

He’d done it so subtly that Jim had spent a long while not even noticing.  And to be fair, they really were talking about trinkets: a cannister of spice rub (terrific for steaks, as if Spock wanted to reassure Jim that he could go on eating them), a replacement stylus, a mended winter scarf.  Most of the days’ tokens hadn’t even been anything Jim could gather up as evidence.  They were more in the line of backrubs and perfectly prepared cups of coffee and a willingness to get up early and watch the sunrise with him.  Inconspicuous, in the main.  He wouldn’t even have noticed it if it hadn’t been for yesterday’s token, a river-polished rock from Tramus V, ordinary stone smoothed into beauty by millennia of rushing waters.  Spock had seen it when he was out running errands and had brought it home, offering it to Jim—very casually, of course—as a paperweight.

A duty it discharged admirably, as a matter of fact.  He couldn’t quibble at all with Spock’s taste.

But somehow that had been just obvious enough for him to retrace the weeks since their wedding and see a certain pattern.  He had laid out the other tangible gifts and let the full picture form.

“Well,” he said aloud, looking down at the display.  He felt a rush of tenderness that, without Spock actually in the apartment, he had nothing at all to do with.  “How about that.”

It was another hour or so before Spock would be home—their schedules on ground varied enough that one of them was always home well before the other—so Jim decided to make use of the time by doing a little cooking.  He’d been working his way—patchily, and occasionally with strong language—through a Mexican cookbook, since that cuisine was the closest to Vulcan that Earth had to offer.  He was just cutting the poblano peppers in two when Spock came in; Jim wiped his hands down on a dishtowel and went out of the kitchen to meet him.

Spock nodded at him and then took in the sight of the desk.  The corner of his mouth quirked.  “Ah.  I presume the paperweight threw the rest into relief.”

“Somewhat more obvious, as far as gifts go.  Not that I haven’t been happy with all of it.”  He tapped the lid of the spice rub with one finger.  “Daily anniversary presents, Spock?”

“Indeed.  A most logical practice.”

“I’m sure.  So logical, in fact, that it never really seems to have caught on with humans, so I hope you’ll forgive me for not holding up my end.  I plead ignorance—but I fully intend to do better.”

“There is no need for you to reciprocate.”

“I disagree.”

“It’s a custom only practiced by Vulcans.”

“Only practiced by Vulcans so far, you mean.  I think it’s a wonderful idea.  They’re little things, anyway, or gestures—it’s not like we’ll break the bank on ourselves.  Your mother must—”

“She participates,” Spock said.  “But she is often considered unusual, for a human.”

“Well, so am I.  Why wait for the calendar to tell us what to do?  We’d lose track half the time anyway with the conversion to star-dates.”

Spock arched an eyebrow, undoubtedly sure that he would be safe from such problems.

“Yearly commemoration is common across the galaxy,” Spock said.  “It is an understandable tradition.  But I see no reason to acknowledge my happiness at our bond only as part of a special occasion—when you are so woven into my daily life.  I prefer to make a habit of being appreciative of that.”

Jim had thought they were talking about feigned logic—reasonable explanations for the unreasonable.  It had charmed him to think of Spock—let alone Vulcans generally—having this vein of untapped romanticism they’d convinced themselves was nothing more than cool rationalism.  But he was glad he’d mostly let Spock talk; he was glad he hadn’t grinned at it all too much.  It was more than sentimentality—more than repressed emotion trickling out around the edges.  More than courtship.

Marriage.  The Vulcans had made it something more present—more vivid—than any ring.

I’m a fool sometimes.  It cheers me up whenever Spock lets his human side show, sure, but—it’d be such a mistake to forget how much being Vulcan has to offer him.  To offer us.

It took him a moment to find the words he wanted.

“If that’s what it’s about for you, Spock, I have every reason to go along and do it too.  Because I can’t imagine not feeling the same.  It’s the best part of marriage, you know—having that steady day-to-day closeness.  It’s what I wanted with you, always.  All our waiting, all that longing, all the times I thought I’d lost you.”  He shook his head.  “Every day, I’m grateful to have you.”

Spock put one hand beneath Jim’s chin, his fingers curved around his jawline, his touch tender, and tilted his face up; they kissed with the sureness of a daily anniversary and the fervency of a yearly one.

“I have not given you today’s acknowledgment,” Spock said softly.

Jim shook his head.  “Just seeing you’s enough.  Let alone—”  He let out a small chuff of laughter.  “Let alone you sweeping me off my feet.”

“The acknowledgment must be deliberate,” Spock said.  He looked pleasantly, gorgeously stubborn.  “Otherwise it would be, in technical terms, cheating.”

“Generally considered bad for a marriage, on whatever terms.”

“Indeed.”

“All right.”  He leaned in, raising himself up on his toes a little, and pressed a firm and decisive kiss against Spock’s lips.  “Hit me.”

“A practice also considered detrimental,” Spock said, with that slight crinkle of humor at the corners of his eyes, “and one I would certainly never employ, unless—”

Under the influence of alien spores?

“—in well-established contexts,” Spock finished.

That was an enticing thought, like Spock had touched some lyre string inside him and set it thrumming.  “I don’t think I’d mind that.  But it doesn’t feel right for today’s anniversary.”

“And not when I already have something prepared.  It has a certain—expiration date.”

“Intriguing.”

Spock tilted his head slightly.  “Perhaps.  But you will not to be curious for long.”  He went to his own desk and opened a drawer, returning with a folded piece of old-fashioned paper.  He presented it, offering Jim one of those rare smiles warm enough to make him melt.  “I remain, on this day and all days, yours.”

Well, being knocked speechless made it easier for him to concentrate on reading whatever Spock had given him:

Dear Jim,

The delivery of this letter marks the day your attention and care to the world around you have alerted you to the Vulcan tradition of daily gift-giving.  I suspect it has met with your appreciation, but I cannot be certain.  And it is this blend of surety—utter, unyielding faith—and the paradoxical endless potential for surprise that seems to best capture our life together.  And will do so, I hope, for all the years to come.

Spock

Addendum: I predict that you will be reading this on the seventeenth day after our wedding.

Jim looked up, smiling, a lump still in his throat, to find Spock looking slightly miffed.  He almost laughed.  “It bothers you that much to be a day off?”

“I had anticipated the paperweight would be sufficiently obvious.”

“I had a headache last night!”

“Obviously.”

Jim reached out and took his hand.  “I love you, you know.  I’m gratified you love me back even on the nights when my logic isn’t up to snuff.  And now… now I have to think up what’ll best show my regard tonight.  Luckily for you, I can think and fix dinner at the same time.”

Spock kept him a kind of half-company while he was in the kitchen; he sat at the table and periodically commented on what he was reading, which was mostly of a stripe of science so far outside Jim’s own enthusiastic layman knowledge that it really just made for comforting background noise.  He’d stuffed the peppers and slid them into the oven when he had an idea that had, he thought, been too long in coming.  He looked out the window a moment before he spoke; he wanted to be sure.  Outside it was a mellow San Francisco evening, a perfect violet-toned dusk, and the quiet hum of the city was just barely audible.  His favorite place on Earth, sure.  But he’d been off-world enough that no place but the Enterprise—and wherever Spock was—felt quite like home.

It decided him.  He said, “How would you like to split our time between Earth and Vulcan?”

Spock set his PADD down on the table.  “We are, as you pointed out, bound to be off-world more often than not.”

“True, but there’s no reason our stints ashore always have to be in the same spot.  We could have a place here and one on Vulcan and rent them out the rest of the year, whenever we’re not using them.”

“The climate is not particularly friendly to humans.”

“If your mother can manage it, so can I.”  He was fortunate, he thought, to have Amanda Grayson as a trailblazer of sorts.  “If you don’t want to, that’s one thing.  But if you do, then we should.”

Spock, too, looked out the window as if considering all the view implied.  “When I first left Vulcan, I felt a sense of relief.  I had not always been… happy.  I required expanded horizons—horizons it would be a profound mistake to relinquish.  But it is still home.  Perhaps one of many.  If you’re sure, Jim, I do think I would like to have some part of our life be there.”

“Then it’s done,” Jim said, with an ease that belayed the guilty twinge in his heart.  He should have asked sooner—it shouldn’t have taken Spock’s anniversary tradition to remind him of all that Vulcan could offer.

He supposed in his defense it had been, for quite some time, the place where Vulcan customs and Vulcan biology had almost torn Spock away from him; it’d been the place where Spock had almost killed him.  Almost walked right into someone else’s arms for an unbreakable lifetime commitment.

But now—now it was also the place where they’d made their own unbreakable commitment, or at least where they’d affirmed before witnesses what had been a done deal long ago.  Where he’d half-forgotten his vows at how damn beautiful Spock had looked.  Where their friends and family had all come together for their sake.

He looked at Spock and, slowly, let one set of memories overwrite the other.  And when he thought again about the red Vulcan sun on Spock’s hair, he smiled, and almost couldn’t wait to move house.

“You’re in for an unpleasant shock, mister,” he said.  “I had this apartment when we met.  You’ve never gone house hunting with me.  I think Bones threatened to infect me with half-a-dozen fatal strands of something or other if I ever said another word about square footage.”

“I have seen you inspect the Enterprise,” Spock said, with the kind of languid playfulness he got sometimes that always made Jim’s mind turn to the bedroom.  “I am well-aware of your tendency to be—fastidious.  I’m prepared to conduct my own work in my head simultaneously.”

“That’s no fun.”

“I am not generally agreed to be ‘fun.’”

“Well, you are, most of the time.  Despite your best intentions.”

“It is a grave disappointment to me,” Spock said.

“Undoubtedly,” Jim agreed.  He started talking—just a little teasingly—about the importance of a house getting good light and about general architectural styles.  The foundations, he thought, wouldn’t be a problem; Vulcans would build things to last.

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