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“Spock, what am I going to do about this?”

“You could always refuse,” Spock said.

Jim sighed.  “I could, and I’ll tell you what they’d do next—they’d write back to me and very politely remind me that I granted Starfleet the right to use my likeness for any purpose deemed ceremonial or promotional, end-quote, and the whole thing would happen anyway.  Only they’d get their revenge by painting me with a squint.”

“I’m curious why you granted the rights to your likeness if you are so opposed to sitting for a portrait.”

“Oh, it was years ago, I was young.  I thought I’d age gracefully.  I still think that, half the time—until I see a picture of myself.  Besides, I didn’t imagine anything like this.  Jam on your toast?”

“Yes, thank you.”

He watched as Jim spread a thin, even layer of blackberry jam over his toast before wicking the knife against the lip of the jar to clear it; he’d use the same one for the cherry preserves he had with his own breakfast.  Spock enjoyed watching him do these kinds of small household tasks.  Years of intimacy had not changed his appreciation of the sureness and swiftness of Jim’s hands at work—or of the simple fact of the two of them in a sunlit kitchen, Jim still in his bathrobe, two breakfast plates sitting side-by-side as the last touches were added.  Spock found their lives as graceful as he could have wished.

He accepted his plate from Jim with a murmur of thanks and then studied him across the kitchen table.  “If you will have to fulfill the obligation whether you object to it or not, I agree discretion would be wise.”

“Wiser than a newly-minted captain with a contract shoved under his nose, certainly.”

“Tame,” Spock said dryly, “for a youthful indiscretion.”

Jim laughed.  “There’s that.  No skeletons waiting to leap out of my closet—just your typical fading glory.”

“That is your second comment about your age in as many minutes,” Spock said.

“Yes, it is, and you’ll probably hear a lot more about it from—”  He checked the message.  “October fourteenth through the twenty-third.  And then again in December when the damn thing goes up on the Academy wall.”

Spock took a bite of toast.  “I have considered that you persist in this behavior to provoke me.”

“To get you to enthusiastically salve my ego, as it were?  Only sometimes.  Otherwise it’s part of a long and honorable human tradition—especially around Vulcans who still look as good now as they did thirty years ago.”

“Yes.  Dr. McCoy speaks of himself in similar terms.  And not, I think, as an unusual form of seduction.”

The words had a strong effect on Jim’s composure, which led to: “Make me choke on my toast like that again and it’ll probably solve all my portrait problems.”

When Jim put his coffee cup down, Spock grazed their fingers together, letting Jim’s hand—and mind—readily curved around his own.

“I find you an entirely worthy subject, in all ways,” Spock said.  “And I believe the medium in this case was well-chosen.  Oils suit you, Jim.  They at least stand some chance of capturing your warmth—which is what makes you age very gracefully to my eyes.”

Jim’s fingers slid over his in a slow Vulcan kiss that did not end without Jim starting it again; the caress against Spock’s hand was continuous.

“I was wrong,” Jim said softly.  “I was wise enough back then, when it came to what mattered.  I fell in love with you, after all.”  He squeezed Spock’s hand.  “You win.  I’ll remember it’s not so bad getting old when I’ve got you to grow old with.”  He looked at the table.  “How hungry are you?”

Spock found himself entirely willing to let the toast grow cold.

***

Later, still in bed, Jim traced whorls against Spock’s chest and said, “I’ve been thinking what someone should do to commemorate you.”

“Very little, as I never authorized the use of my likeness.”

“Ah, so we’ve reached the part of the afterglow where you’re feeling smug, I see.”

“Entirely justified, if you will review my recent actions.”

Jim’s chest shook slightly against Spock’s shoulder; he was suppressing laughter.  “I can’t disagree, Mr. Spock.  But let’s not project that sense of self-satisfaction too far in the past.  I’m sure I could scrounge around even in your personal history and come up with something equally ill-advised.”

“It is fair to note I had an advantage in preserving that aspect of my privacy.”

“Being Vulcan?”

“Essentially—as, being Vulcan, I was never offered such a contract.  It was a foregone conclusion I would not sign.”

Jim’s hand drifted down, resting now somewhere near Spock’s heart.  “And would you have?”

Only Jim would have thought to ask him that—let alone while offering such a quiet reassurance as his pulse against Spock’s own heartbeat.  My blood to your blood, my heart to your heart.

“No,” Spock said.

“Sure of that?”

“I would rate the probability at ninety-seven point six percent.”

“Lower than usual,” Jim observed.  “You’d have liked to have been asked, at least?”

“It was strange, after a lifetime of being thought ‘tainted’ by humanity, to have it suddenly taken for granted that I was nothing of the kind.”  He turned against Jim, facilitating Jim wrapping an arm around him.  “I am Vulcan, certainly—and obviously.  It was a logical assumption for them to make.”

“But it would’ve been more logical—and better—not to make an assumption at all.”

“Possibly.”  Because he had looked to Starfleet in part to find a place for himself, and he had learned soon enough, from such incidents, that there was no utopia where he, in all his contradictions, could be understood easily and at once.

On Vulcan, he had been too marked for the more common parts of his character to show; in the wider universe, he was too little known for anything uncommon to be noticed.  Starfleet had not been the cure for the distance that had surrounded him.  Not in itself.  But it had given him identities beyond those he’d inherited—had strengthened his sense of himself in a way Vulcan alone would not have.  And it had given him friends.  Eventually, it had given him Jim, who did understand him.  Sometimes frighteningly well.

He could not put all of that into words, so he said only, “I willingly forgive the oversight.  A lapse in paperwork is only a minor fault—and whatever I would have said, I would now wish it to be a no.”

He could feel the intensity of Jim’s gaze on him a moment longer as Jim decided whether or not to press into this any further, but the intensity subsided; if they were old enough to be wise, truly, they were old enough to know that not all nagging pains had a cure.  Palliatives—such as a change in subject—often did just as well.

They would come back to this sometime—as they would no doubt come back to the subject of Jim’s age, to the rueful look that was sometimes in his eyes as he stood in front of the mirror.

These things recurred.  Oddly, Spock found he valued them, as he valued the jam jars on the counter and the worn nap of Jim’s robe; they were reminders of time, of a love that had and would endure.

Much as an oil painting might, he thought, and said aloud, “I wonder how many old friends could accept an invitation to see your portrait unveiled.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“It is a great honor, Jim,” he said, deadpan.  “I am sure Dr. McCoy would do an excellent job disseminating the news.”

“And now you’re going to ally with Bones against me?  This might still count as mutiny, mister.”

“That would be unfortunate.”

Jim shifted, his belly briefly pressing against Spock’s before he raised himself up on one elbow.  His warm hazel eyes had a familiar glint in them.  “Don’t you want to know what I decided for your commemoration?”

“I do.”

“A statue,” Jim said.  “Your face, your shoulders—you were made to be sculpted, Spock.”

“It is highly unlikely that purpose factored into my conception.”

“I mean it.  You’re perfectly molded, perfectly sculpted already.  All that’s left is translating that to a different medium.  Only I haven’t picked the right one yet.”

“Marble or bronze would be traditional,” Spock said, “if you intended to place this statue on Earth.”

“I thought about that, but no.  Too cold, too stiff.”

“Both descriptions I have heard of myself.”

“Not from me you haven’t.  Aside from cold feet in the middle of the night and stiff—”  He grinned.  “I’ve never complained, certainly, of anything you’ve offered in that department.”

“Certainly not,” Spock said primly.

“No, what they’d need is something that’s truer than true—the metaphorical qualities of gold, but not as gaudy and not as malleable—no one’s ever gotten you to do something you didn’t want to do—and it’d have to be rare, really one-of-a-kind.  Priceless, naturally.”  He smiled and leaned in, kissing Spock; the taste of blackberries and cherries met on their lips.  “I think I’ve boxed myself into a corner.  Nothing compares, so nothing will ever do.  You’ll have to belong to the ages for yourself.”

Spock looked at the crinkles at the corners of Jim’s eyes, at his sun-browned forehead, his graying hair, his familiar and endlessly expressive mouth.  No, Jim.  Not to the ages.

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