Summary: "The thing about destiny was that Jim didn't believe in it. He was more of a do-it-yourself kind of guy..." Spock has other ideas about that.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit fun.
Special Thanks: A huge shout-out to janice_lester for not only the awesome beta job, as always, but for the quick turn-around. She's fabulous.
The thing about destiny was that Jim didn’t believe in it. He was more of a do-it-yourself kind of guy, and that included mapping the future, picking friends, and of course, pondering decisions and their probable outcomes. He might not be able to calculate odds down to the fifth decimal place like his enigmatic First Officer, but he was excellent at recognizing patterns, at predicting cause and effect.
So yes, if asked, Jim would say his future was going to be forged by him and him alone, and he didn’t really need a partner or a cohort to do it. It was his actions, his decision which determined his prospect. Of course, the solo thing only went so far, he fully recognized that he did need his crew, badly, and they had to be the best, and he did need a kickass First Officer, and he had to be the best, and he had that.
His crew, young as they all were, wet behind the ears and whatever other ‘odd human colloquialism’, (‘Could you explain the meaning behind your turn of phrase, Captain’?) would fit, were the ‘crème de la crème’ (look it up, Spock, or better yet, ask Bones, just make sure that convo is somewhere it can be recorded so I can hear it later) of the fleet. Together their potential was immeasurable, their paths bright.
He got that he and Spock in another universe had been the closest of closest friends, bosom buddies, soul-brothers, whatever. Really, he did. A maybe a part of him even believed it. Marginally. The older, other universe, more laid back, and utterly awesome Spock had been entirely sincere when he brought it up, and the meld they shared had left no doubt as to that sincerity: it had appeared in full Technicolor, vibrant in its residual emotional glory. There was something there, something deep, something downright frightening in its intensity. Whatever other-Kirk and other-Spock had shared must have been extreme, if the vibes he got from that meld were anything to go by. And sure younger Spock wasn’t all that bad a guy once you got past the whole repressed, uptight, I-could-kill-you-by-barely-lifting-a-finger type thing, but Jim had come this far in life alone, and he didn’t intend to alter that pattern.
Relying on people fully, for emotional support and well-being, only led to disappointment. He and Bones got along so well because they both got that. They were friends for friendship’s sake, because no matter how driven and ambitious one or the other was, it was always nice to have a kindred spirit to talk to at the end of the day, no expectations, no attempts to change or alter one another’s personality to better fit a need ‘Come as you are, do what you want, I support you, you bastard, even if I think you’re as crazy as a loon’ -- and it worked for them. It was the only relationship, albeit entirely platonic, that Jim had ever had that did work, and he didn’t think he needed anything beyond that to be complete. He was fine as he was, thank you kindly.
Other Universe Spock was a great guy, and Jim really liked him a lot, but he did think that he was missing the boat a bit by suggesting that Jim and the younger Spock were destined for a partnership that put all other partnerships to shame. A bit insulting, really, the implication that Jim couldn’t captain on his own. And while he recognized that that probably wasn’t the message the wizened ambassador was trying to convey, Jim’s inner night watch couldn’t help but ring alarm bells all over the place.
He wasn’t that other Jim. He wasn’t. He had spent his whole life in the shadow of a father he hadn’t known, he wasn’t about to spend the rest of his life in the shadow of himself from another life. And while his lessons in life had been hard won, and his childhood more shitty than it should have been because of some twisted turn of circumstances and a Romulan who ate crazy for breakfast, he was proud of the knowledge he had gained from it.
Jim Kirk could survive anything, and he could do it himself. A hard lesson, sure, but an important one.
Jim didn’t know what Spock wanted out of their new relationship as Captain and First Officer, but figured it was best to start off on the right foot. He didn’t think they’d reach the level of intimacy their counterparts had, wasn’t sure if he’d know what to do with it if he had it, in fact the whole idea was more than a little scary -- a little co-dependant, all truth be told -- but he wasn’t opposed to a more friendly relationship, one that was blissfully free of choking, marooning or bringing up recently deceased mothers with the intent to inflict emotional pain.
That is why he called Spock into a private meeting in his quarters to discuss their newly appointed positions. There were no deeper meanings other than that. No justifications necessary.
Although it was difficult to guess what Spock was reading exactly when his sharp, unfathomable eyes looked at Jim as if they could see into his very soul, and he stood as still as a statue, scarcely even blinking.
As much as he hated himself for it, Jim couldn’t help it, he fidgeted under that stare like a child. And then he broke Spock’s gaze, looking everywhere but at the Vulcan assessing him so thoroughly. And then he fidgeted some more, just for good measure, because apparently his body’s involuntary actions weren’t nearly embarrassing enough.
Good God, Vulcans were intense sons of bitches. Jim wondered if the other him ever got away with anything in that relationship. He must have been the bottom. Not that Jim had wondered that before. Ever. In fact, he was thinking of something else right now, because he sure as hell did not want to speculate on the sex lives of other Kirks and Spocks in other universes, it was untoward and completely unnecessary.
Yes, entirely unnecessary and his brain was going to stop thinking about it right now… no matter how stimulating the thought. It wasn’t going to happen. No melds, no bonds, no sex.
If this Spock thought that Jim was going to be bottoming for him, or doing anything of the sort, or kowtowing in any way, he had another thing coming, because it wasn’t going to happen. He just wanted to be on friendlier terms with his First Officer, that was all.
Jim had no idea what to say to break a hole in the awkward tension that surrounded them like thick fog, he had to take his best stab at it. The energy that cackled between them, this unseen force that flowed back and forth like a current, the unsolicited thoughts of sex, and relationships, and soul reading was a tad disconcerting, and Jim sure as hell wasn’t going to be intimidated in his own quarters, no sir, he would damn well find something to say.
“Spock, do you believe in destiny?” he blurted out, and then cursed himself all kinds of stupid. Way to break the tension Jim, good going. Just bring up the one elephant in the room you didn’t want to discuss. Brain, you spoke out of turn.
“In the past I have not believed in destiny, no, but recently my views on the matter have altered considerably,” Spock stated, and Jim felt something within him shift at that comment. Some twinge in his heart he couldn’t explain, but one that caused his pulse to speed up a bit.
He wouldn’t read into that more, couldn’t examine that further, no good would come from it…
“That’s a surprising answer from a logical guy like you. I would have thought your answer to be an emphatic no. Care to elaborate?” Jim heard himself ask, and then he cursed his brain, again.
God fucking damnit. There was no such thing as destiny, but there sure as hell were such things as thoughts that spoke of their own volition, without consulting the common sense receptors of the brain beforehand. It was distressing, damnit.
The look Spock gave him in response was an odd one. One that seemed to say ‘you know the answer to that already, I know you’re smarter than that, why are you asking rhetorical questions?’ while also saying, ‘ah, you didn’t realize it, but you just gave something of yourself away. I understand you better now, thank you.’
Jim didn’t know which was more unsettling, the act of comprehending Spock’s gazes, or the message they seemed to convey. Neither settled well with his comfort levels, and his fidgeting, damn it all to hell, was only getting worse. Apparently neither his mouth nor his body were under his control in the presence of this particular being. If Bones ever got wind of this -- the way Spock seemed to break through Jim’s every defensive shield -- he would be laughing his ass off at Jim’s discomfort. Smooth talking Jim Kirk, could sell air conditioning environmental control units to the inhabitants of Alaska -- except, of course, if Vulcans named Spock were anywhere close by at the time of the sale.
It frustrated him beyond words. He felt like he had somehow lost control of the situation, that this conversation, his intentions, his hard earned belief system were all somehow spiraling in a direction he hadn’t intended to take. Was it Spock? Or was it him? Which of them caused this effect, this loss of control, and how could it be salvaged?
“Meeting an alternate version of myself was the largest cause for the adjustment,” Spock replied after a beat, “although the circumstances regarding that meeting, up to and including my interactions with you, certainly assisted in the matter.”
His dark eyes flashed yet another message… ‘there is more to this than my words convey, do you get it?’ but Jim was too distracted to ponder that further, not when anger flashed so suddenly and brightly in his soul.
That son of a bitch, that ruthless, scheming… Jim took back every complimentary thing he had ever thought about the wily, old bastard; he had fucking lied. Since when did Vulcans lie? Didn’t they have some sacred pact that they lorded over the lesser beings of the universe, ‘all truth all the time’ or some shit like that?!
“I was led to believe that the two of you couldn’t meet. That the universe would implode, or something equally dire and depressing would happen. But since the universe has very much not imploded, I take it I was played?” Jim asked. And he wasn’t huffing, he wasn’t. Grown men of 25 who had just made Captain of the Federation’s Flagship did not huff. Well, not exactly. More like expressed a rather manly displeasure at being had, particularly when they weren’t used to it. Being had, that is. Because they were usually the ones doing the had-ing.
Too clever, the Spocks of all universes, Jim would have to be on his guard. The unsettled feeling in his gut heightened a notch or two.
But another, more distressing thought tickled Jim’s consciousness… if younger Spock had met older Spock then older Spock might have mentioned that connection-thing he had with the Jim Kirk of the other universe…. There was no such thing as a soulmate, surely someone as logical as Spock would see that. It was a romantic notion invented by Plato and then taken out of context by the creators of holo greeting cards to prey on the lonely. Vulcan bonds or no Vulcan bonds, Spock did not have to buy into that whole predestined thing just because a relationship between the two of them had worked out in another universe. Surely Spock realized this.
“I believe my alternative self considered his deception necessary in order to facilitate our working past our initial differences of opinion. In this regard I can not help but condone his actions and agree with their necessity.”
And those mesmerizing ever assessing dark eyes followed that up with ‘just try to contradict me on this, I dare you’.
Thus the fear in Jim’s heart, the one blossomed from the idea that his fate wasn’t entirely in his own hands exploded into a bit of a panic.
This just wouldn’t do. Not at all.
Avoiding Spock was easier said than done, particularly when said Vulcan was his fucking First Officer. Their job descriptions required that they conversed with each other; in fact, he had once heard Pike jokingly say that the relationship between Captain and First Officer was more intimate than any marriage. Jim had always suspected that the comment had something to do with the fact that Pike had been screwing his former first officer every which way from Sunday when they had been stationed together, thus meaning ‘intimate’ in both the literal and figurative sense, but whatever. Let Pike keep his delusions of subtlety, Jim had more pressing concerns to contend with… his hyperawareness of Spock, and the way the air seemed to sizzle between them.
He didn’t believe in destiny, but sexual chemistry? That shit was potent. Because yes, Spock was attractive, Jim could admit it. His First was more exotic and exciting and intelligent than any being had right to be. Higher intelligence had always been a turn-on for Jim. If he had a type, it was the incredibly smart and good-looking, complete with a small dash of the unknown; the sense of mystery waiting to be unraveled.
It was all so horribly cliché; he didn’t want a relationship, was trying to avoid the trap of predestination, and the supposed fate business, so naturally, his awareness of Spock had seemed to magnify tenfold. He knew instantly when Spock entered a room, felt the Vulcan’s gaze on him whenever it wandered in his direction without having to verify with visual confirmation, hell, the odd, alert tension between him and Spock might as well be sentient for all its vibrancy and influence, but more unsettling than that was the way that Spock made no move to confront Jim over it.
From their conversation on destiny that one night, Jim had been certain that Spock possessed the same knowledge of the other universe as he did, that the elder Spock had set him on the same path he had tried to prep Jim for, but if Spock did have an inkling, he made no further attempt to ‘embrace destiny’ or some such other bullshit. Their one conversation had ended, abruptly and awkwardly, Spock had left in relative haste and that had been that. And now Spock watched, and assessed, and he threw himself into becoming the model First Officer, never once mentioning their conversation or its implications.
Reports were always turned in on time. Conversations were kept strictly professional. If any physical contact was made, it was accidental. Spock was adhering to every wish that Jim had had on how their relationship should function. So then why did he feel so unsettled? Why did it feel like the other shoe had yet to drop? What was that intangible excitement that pulsed and thrummed to the beat of his heart, that he couldn’t explain or even entirely understand? It was like he was unnerved without cause to be so. All his expectations were being met, so what gave?
But for whatever reason, the more time passed, the more exhausted he became. As if the need to keep his distance from Spock, emotionally -- and wasn’t that just the kicker, keeping emotions away from an emotionally suppressed half-Vulcan -- was more burdensome than it was worth. Spock clearly had no intentions of forcing the issue of their destiny, maybe Jim was being overly cautious by attempting to keep Spock at arm’s length.
There was nothing to say they couldn’t be friends. He had a friend in Bones, was beginning to form ties of a lesser degree with the rest of his senior staff, why not give it a go with Spock? It seemed almost, (no mockery intended), illogical to keep this… restraint going when there was nothing to restrain against.
So it was with that thought in mind that Jim invited Spock over for a game of chess. Chess was safe, there was no innuendo in chess. Chess required concentration on the game, and anyone who played chess with Jim usually ended up resenting him rather than wanting to be with him. Sore losers and all that.
Except Spock wasn’t the sore loser; he was.
It was a well known fact in the universe that Jim Kirk hated to lose, hated it with a passion that filled his stomach with bile. Oh he put on a good show of sportsmanship, as he was doing with Spock now, but the fact that Spock had beaten him… it galled, it really did. Spock was so good in everything that he did, why couldn’t Jim have just this one thing. He was smart, too, damnit. Strategy had always been kind of his thing. No one had ever beaten him at chess before, not Bones, not Pike, not his mother, his brother, and especially not Frank, the stupid asshole with the IQ of a pigeon.
But instead he smiled at his First, made a bullshit comment on ‘good game’ and forced his annoyingly strong competitive streak down with as much strength of will as he could muster. And for all his efforts he saw amusement shine through Spock’s eyes, clear as day, from his spot across the board, and the corners of his mouth twitch as if they really wanted to smile, but Vulcan stoicism had undoubtedly brow beaten that response out of him in his youth and his facial muscles didn’t quite know what do with the inclination.
“Would it help if I stated that this was the most challenging game I have experienced in quite some time?” Spock asked, and yes, Jim wasn’t imagining it, there was definite amusement in the Vulcan’s tone.
Jim was torn between wanting to ‘accidentally’ knock Spock’s tea into his lap for having the sheer nerve to gloat, of all things, when Jim had been trying so hard to be a good sport and ‘just so you know, stereotypes everywhere, Vulcans totally do emotions, you won’t prove from Spock that they don’t’ and feeling a bit relieved, because yes, it was nice to hear that he had at least made a challenging partner for the Vulcan savant.
It was the small things…
“Guess I have to brush up on my acting, I thought was putting on a good show. What gave me away?” Jim asked, conceding gracefully that yes, he was a competitive bastard, ever so sorry about that.
“Your eyes. Your pupils dilate whenever you are annoyed, or angry,” the Vulcan replied matter-of-factly and Jim made a mental note never to play poker with the guy, as he seemed to notice Jim’s tells way too easily.
But that was okay, because Jim saw Spock’s as well, and whether the Vulcan knew it or not, his eyes also conveyed the emotions he struggled so hard to hide.
The eyes it was then, for both of them. Another commonality between them.
Feeling semi-pacified at his rather brutal loss, Jim couldn’t help but challenge… “So then you won’t be at all surprised at my request, and by request I mean insistence, for a rematch?”
“I look forward to it, Captain,” Spock replied easily, but there was a light in his eyes as he spoke, there and gone in a blink, but one that gave Jim a sense of foreboding… and also had his heart rate escalating.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you that it isn’t nice to talk about someone behind their backs?” Jim raised an eyebrow, reclining back further in his chair in order to eye his friend more fully.
Bones snorted. “That’s never stopped us before,” he retorted, his hazel eyes dancing with amusement. “Especially considering a good half of our conversations have been about other people.”
“And the other half?” Jim asked for clarification, amused despite himself.
“I was either too inebriated or too pissed at you for doing something foolhardy to remember, both are likely scenarios.”
And Jim couldn’t help it, despite his admittedly half-hearted attempt to remain stoic, he laughed.
“Touché, Bones, touché,” he said from behind his coffee cup, effectively hiding his grin.
“So are you going to answer the question or not? What is with all of the time you’ve been spending with Spock lately, and, more importantly, why aren’t you in a boredom induced coma because of it?”
Though Jim would never admit it to his friend out loud, at least not until he’d figured a few things out, it annoyed the crap out of him when the doctor laid into Spock like that. He knew that the animosity between the two was more bark than bite, hell, half the time their gentle jabs at one another were more amusing than anything. The Enterprise didn’t need holovid streams coming in, they had their own tailor made comedy right here, but there was something there that niggled him.
Jim loved Leonard McCoy like a brother, would take a laser hit for him without even blinking, but the animosity with Spock served to release a sort of unnecessary protective instinct within him. Unnecessary because Spock could not only hold his own, but could out-sarcasm even the infamous Doctor McCoy, who made facetiousness an art form and was damn proud of it, and also because his friendship with Spock was still relatively new, particularly in comparison to his friendship with Bones.
Of the two, he wondered why it was Spock that he got the most defensive over, but figured it was because he knew Bones so well, and knew that the doctor might have a faux gruff exterior when it came to the world at large, but on the inside was a heart of gold and a soul as determined to survive as Jim’s own. Bones didn’t need anyone looking out for him, he had it covered. If anything Bones had always been the one to look out for him. Spock on the other hand had this hidden core of vulnerability that Jim only occasionally glimpsed… this sense of loneliness hidden under layers of Vulcan resolve.
On the rare occasions he did see it, Jim wondered if he was imagining it, projecting his own feelings of isolation onto Spock. Was it likely that Spock, who prided himself on his control over his emotions, knew loneliness? The kind of solitude that Jim had long ago learned to accept as a protective necessity, but a very painful necessity nonetheless?
There was so much more to Spock, more than even Jim knew, but getting Bones to see it was an impossibility; Jim was a Starfleet captain, not prone to acts of God, despite rumors to the contrary.
“Not boring. Never that. Just the opposite in fact. It might have escaped your attention what with those glasses you wear that tend to block the color green, but the guy is actually very fucking smart with a great sense of humor. Spending time with him is always, to coin a phrase, fascinating.”
The look he received in response to his rather hearty defense of his First was not the blatant and thoroughly exaggerated denial he was expecting, but rather a look of completely open assessment, the doctor studying Jim’s face with keen intent... almost too intently. What, were Bones and Spock comparing notes now? ‘How to unnerve Jim in one easy step?’ Chapter One: the assessment look, guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of the neck rise.
“Uh huh,” the doctor responded dryly, after a beat, not bothering to hide his amusement over whatever conclusion it was he had reached, a grin spreading across his face as slow as molasses. Jim’s grandmother had always labeled that type of grin the ‘Cheshire cat grin’ and would always claim that Jim could do it better than anyone... it was probably a good thing she had never met Bones, otherwise Jim would have lost his title.
“What is ‘uh huh’ supposed to mean?” he wheedled, frustration growing in the pit of his stomach. Yet even though he asked, he already knew. Had already deciphered which conclusion Bones had reached. And the doctor was wrong. Spock was his friend, damnit. Fri-end. Was that so hard a concept to grasp? Why did everyone in the universe conspire to read more into that?
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Bones remarked, waving his hand nonchalantly. “At least, nothing I want to point out to you for fear you’d do that thing you do when you realize what I just realized, and it elicits an unhealthy response, like say, I don’t know, how about one hell of a flight instinct, developed in childhood as a self-defense mechanism. In short Jim, you just weren’t hugged enough. Poor Spock has his work cut out for him.”
“Not hugged enough?” Jim snorted, “Please Bones, spare me the unloved child cliché, I’m not ignorant of my own sad little tale, you know. Boy born in the wake of his father’s tragic, horrific demise, a young mother who was also a Starfleet officer who often left home to work out in space, and the wicked step-father who fits every fairytale stereotype to an almost frightening degree. I’ve read all about Pavlov and his dogs, Skinner and his ‘radical behaviorism’ – created some pretty freaky inventions for his time, that one -- I’m not an idiot, but what I fail to see is how my being hugged has anything to do with my entirely platonic relationship with Spock. There is nothing for me to ‘fly’ from, other than the literal sense as we are living on a starship.”
His last line, an attempt at levity meant to get Bones to laugh and distract him from the whole uncomfortable conversation unfortunately fell flat, as his friend continued to eye him as if seeing directly through him. What the fuck was it with the men in his life and doing that? He needed to find new friends… dumber, clueless, and infinitely less introspective ones.
“Uh huh,” Bones said again, after a beat, his kilowatt grin returning as he slowly rose from his chair, “missed Freud in all that name dropping you just did, he did some great initial work in the study of denial. Might want to check it out, highly entertaining read. Way more interesting than either Pavlov or Skinner.”
With that said, the doctor turned to leave, and Jim could only roll his eyes at this friend’s flair for the dramatic exit.
“You’re not getting the last word on this one, Bones,” Jim called out, exasperated.
“Bullshit,” his friend responded on his way out the door, whistling all the way.
Jim couldn’t help but wonder why it seemed like everyone but him was just a little insane.