Length: ~ 12,000
Warnings: Character Death (In a way)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything but the plot -- and it could be said that the plot owns me. These characters, much as I regret it, are not mine.
Summary: The only thing Jim's ever wanted is Spock. But Spock is the one thing he can't have -- until a strange visitor grants Jim one wish.
A/N: This was written for the K/S Advent Calendar. It is also for my friend larawander5, who months ago gave me the original plotbunny that spawned this story.
The Longest Christmas
He plays the game, knows the steps by heart and by now it's easy to pretend. Smile, laugh, joke – to all outward appearances, he's the grinning cocky full-of-himself captain. But it's all a lie, and nobody knows it but him.
He's been playing it so long that his grin doesn't even crack when Chapel brushes the back of Bones' hand with a smile. The charade is easy to keep up at the sight of Scotty kissing his little chef on the cheek. Or when Hikaru comes up behind Pavel and envelopes the smaller man in a hug. He's happy for his friends, and their happiness. It is Christmas Eve, after all, a joyous occasion on any other year – but especially so, this year. Against all odds, they are here, when they should have been destroyed just hours prior at the hands of the Tele'Vi and their machinations.
So everyone's smiles are a little forced, a little tight as they hide their worries behind their eyes and throw themselves into enjoying the night. For once, Jim doesn't feel alone in this regard – everyone is pretending more joy than they actually feel. But, conversely, it actually makes him feel worse – these people, the ones he loves, have a reason to feel joyful, as they all have someone to be happy for. Whereas this night, as every night, his bed will be alone and empty when he finally collapses in it.
"So, Jim, when will you finally settle down and bring a special girl to one of our parties?" Nyota asks, brushing against his elbow and knocking him out of his revelry. He had intentionally been ignoring the couple at his side, for reasons that are entirely his own and he would prefer not to think about.
But now he has to, and he turns to her with a smile that is brittle around the edges. "I just haven't found the right person yet," he tells her, and he can't help that his eyes shoot to Spock – close, attentive, at her side – and back to Nyota.
The Vulcan nods his head, all sharp angles and ethereal beauty even though Jim doesn't want to see it anymore. "Indeed, it would be good for you to take a partner. Are there no prospects on the ship that interest you?"
He grimaces, letting his distaste be known, and willfully letting them think the obvious instead of giving them the truth. "It causes too many problems when the captain is involved with a subordinate. I'd rather avoid those."
A sound of understanding from Nyota, and her hand is back, though this time squeezing his elbow before it folds around Spock's arm. Her eyes, when he looks at them, are full of sorrow for him – which only makes it worse. It cuts him to the bone, because if she knew the truth, well. She wouldn't be feeling any type of pity for him.
All he does is tack the cocky grin back on his face, and turn away. Towards Bones, who he immediately engages with a joke. Anything to avoid the two at his side again, to forget for a little while that he'll never get the only thing he's ever wanted.
Hours later, and it's no surprise that sleep eludes him. Even after the trying events of the day, and the exhaustion that lingers in his very bones, Jim can't find relief. Every time he closes his eyes the same face appears, all dark eyes and delicately pointed ears, just as unattainable as always.
He's used to his insomniac tendencies, but tonight is even worse – after the party, he's too keyed up to find release in paperwork like he typically does. The sanctuary his job has become is just out of reach, and it leaves him even more frustrated than usual.
Which is how he finds himself pacing in one of the tiny observation decks off the Bridge. It is quiet, and he is comfortable here, alone with the stars and his thoughts. The stars are austere in their beauty, reminding him of the one his thoughts never stray far from. Their reminder is one of the few he does not find painful, and they float by the viewing window as the Enterprise limps on impulse to the nearest Starbase.
He's been waiting for a year, patiently watching from the sidelines with his fingers crossed. But instead of dissolving, Spock's relationship with Nyota has only gotten stronger. And Jim's hopes have waned as their relationship deepened. He finds it ironic that the only one he's ever cared deeply for, the only one that he's ever felt was an equal and had this undying attraction to – is off limits. And no matter what he feels, he isn't going to do anything to destroy the relationship that obviously means so much to Spock.
Movement outside the window catches his attention, and he steps up to the railing. There's a streak flying past, a sparkling point of light moving faster than the ship. He frowns in confusion, not sure what spatial anomaly it could possibly be as he follows the shining streak with his eyes.
And then a childhood memory surfaces from the depths of his mind, one of the few untainted happy moments he had. Something about shooting stars, and wishes to be granted. He smiles at the silliness of it, but then the smile changes to something rather wistful.
Before he can think twice, he murmurs his most tightly held secret to the silence of the observation deck, the star's afterglow still clearly visible as it shoots off in the distance. "I wish…I wish that I could know, at least once, what it would be like for Spock to love me as much as he loves Nyota."
Something strange happens. Instead of disappearing from the viewing pane, the shooting star – or whatever it is – comes to a dead stop. Jim can tell because the tail streaming behind it comes to a sudden end, and disappears. Then, as if it's conscious, and like it heard him, it starts moving again. But this time, it's coming directly towards the ship. He can tell because that tail is streaming in the opposite direction, and is nearly invisible from this angle.
His heart in his throat, he stares wide-eyed at the object hurtling towards them with precision and intent. For one wild moment he contemplates warning the Bridge, but it's coming too fast and there's no way they can avoid the collision. But then he notices something even odder about the thing that appears to be a star – even though it's coming closer, it's not getting any larger.
The laws of perspective dictate that this is impossible, and yet as he watches it's undeniable. The object is still twinkling as if it were far from the ship, but he can tell that it's noticeably closer. Too close, as in a couple seconds it will be impacting, and then –
But instead of crashing into the side of the Enterprise and creating irreparable damage, the object shimmers, and suddenly it's in the room with him. The star sparkles at eyelevel, floating around him as he freezes in place. It performs several orbits around his person, before coming to a rest in front of him. Jim holds his breath, trying to catalog as much as he can about the phenomena while he still has the chance.
It's definitely not a comet, or a piece of space debris. There is a nebula of softer light around a pinpoint of brightness, and no physical form is visible. He tries, but he can't look directly at the center – not that it's too bright, and hurts, but as if his eyes keep shifting away of their own accord. Reaching forward, disbelieving, he tries to catch the point of light. Darting easily to the side, it avoids his touch. It shakes as if in reproach, and then Jim really wants to pinch himself to prove he's still awake.
"Is this what you truly desire?"
The voice comes out of nowhere, and everywhere, all at once. Somehow, it is speaking in English, but he can't tell if the voice is male or female. And he knows what it's referring to, what this strange visit is about.
But he doesn't know exactly what this is, and if the star – or whatever it is – can read his mind. Immediately, he discards the thought of lying. What would it accomplish, anyway?
"Yes," he murmurs, keeping his eyes on the point of light as closely as possible.
A disembodied chuckle, which holds no malice but somehow sets his teeth on edge. "Oh, this is going to be interesting."
It hurtles towards him, and he tries to back up. Says the first thing that pops into his head, "What are you?" The question makes it pause, and it floats just inches from his forehead.
"Your people will call me Q." Then it leaps forward faster than Jim can defend himself, and a blinding light suffuses him.
Jim blinks, feeling tingly all over – and as if he missed something huge. But looking around, the strange light has disappeared from the observation deck. And there's nowhere for it to hide.
Stepping up to the railing, just to be sure, he searches the star field carefully with his eyes, trying to pierce the veil and force the object to reappear. But the Q does not show itself, and Jim shakes his head in confusion. He's sure now that he must have hallucinated the whole episode in his exhaustion – there's no evidence that there was anything else in the observation deck with him.
The door behind him swooshes open, and soft confident footsteps track across the floor to stop a short distance behind him. Jim knows who it is; he could tell this one apart from anyone else in the Galaxy, just by the feel of him.
"Captain – Jim, are you all right?" Spock's words are soft as his footsteps, but there is a note of concern in his tone that Jim isn't used to hearing. His behavior at the party must have been particularly worrisome, if Spock caught on to it.
Bracing himself, he turns to face the striking Vulcan. As always, he's dazzled anew at the sight – but this time, it's by the fall of soft starlight on midnight black hair, the delicate highlights of blue glistening in the darkness. He's used to hiding these feelings, and so with a minimum of effort he shifts his eyes to meet Spock's, and shrugs. "I'm fine, Spock. Just distracted, I guess. Can't stop going over that last mission in my head." The lie comes easily, like they always do when what's really distracting him is Spock himself.
A nod, and inexplicably Spock's hand reaches for him, but halfway through the motion he seems to think better of it, and the hand falls back to his side. "It was a difficult mission, made more so by the unexpected nature of the participants. And yet, as always, you were able to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion and save the ship and her crew."
The compliment causes a faint wash of heat to begin at Jim's ears, and coat the tops of his cheeks. He runs his hand through his hair to hide his embarrassment, and can't help but notice that Spock's eyes seem to be following the spots of color on his cheekbones.
He clears his throat, and tries to push the awkward feelings away by dredging up a smile. "Yeah, but I wouldn't have been able to pull it off without you and everyone else."
Warmth appears in Spock's eyes, and the Vulcan nods. "As you always attest."
Getting decidedly creeped out by Spock's behavior, and the cryptic comment, Jim lets a yawn out. "I think I'll be going to bed now."
"A decision I would agree with," Spock murmurs, motioning for Jim to precede him. Shooting the Vulcan a searching glance as he walks past, Jim exits the observation deck and makes his way to his quarters.
Disconcertingly, the Vulcan keeps pace with him. And instead of respecting the hands-breadth of distance that is typically held between them, Spock is close. Close enough that every so often, while they walk, Jim's sleeve brushes against Spock's – leaving tingling goosebumps traveling up his flesh.
Not that he'd ever bring Spock's attention to it, and cause the Vulcan to distance himself again. The casual contact is… really nice. Something that Jim's been craving, and he holds it to him, because he's sure it won't happen again.
They stop before his door, and he turns to regard Spock one last time. There seems to be expectation lurking in the Vulcan's eyes, but Jim can't imagine what he's waiting for. Clearing his throat once again, Jim nods. "Good night, Spock."
Frown lines flicker to life between Spock's brows, and then disappear in a heartbeat. "You wish to sleep alone tonight?"
He says it as if there is confusion in the statement, which causes Jim to frown in return. Didn't he just explain earlier that he's not willing to fraternize with the crew? He scratches his head and shrugs. "Well, yeah."
"As you wish," Spock says in his quiet voice, and Jim can't help the feeling that somehow he wronged the Vulcan. Is he supposed to have someone to warm his bed, simply because it's Christmas Eve?
Then Spock reaches forward, and with his two first fingers touching, brushes them against the back of Jim's hand. Freezing, Jim stares wide-eyed at the Vulcan – Spock has never, ever, allowed Jim to touch his hands except in rare never-spoken-of, and most often life-threatening, occasions.
"Good night, Jim," the Vulcan says in parting, and then disappears through his own cabin door before Jim can even bring himself back together enough to formulate a response.
The mess hall the next day is bustling as ever. There are only a few individuals that are bleary-eyed and trying to resurrect themselves with large doses of coffee – most of his crew knows better than to imbibe too much, even on a holiday. Just because there was a party last night, does not mean work didn't resume bright and early this morning.
With a sigh, Jim settles his tray at their customary table. He's ready for life to begin as it usually does; which means today will be spent filing reports and listening to damage synopses as they continue their limp to the Starbase. It's going to take weeks for them to get there at impulse, but there's always plenty of paperwork to occupy the intervening hours.
A tray full of assorted fruits is placed next to his on the table, and Spock slips in beside him. Glancing up, Jim gives his First a smile before returning to his food. He doesn't know quite how to act after the awkwardness of last night, and decides to wait until he gets his cue from Spock.
"Was your sleep cycle beneficial?" he is asked, as the Vulcan cuts his fruit into neat tiny pieces. Small talk is a good sign, means Spock isn't angry at him for – whatever he was angry about.
Jim nods, sending a smile Spock's way. "Yeah, it helped a lot. I passed out as soon as I hit the bed – I just must not have realized how tired I really was."
"This is good news," Spock says in reply, his eyes shimmering in what Jim would almost claim is a smile. The Vulcan sets down his knife, and his fingers brush the back of Jim's hand in a gesture that mirrors the one right before he said goodnight. "I was…concerned last night, as you seemed distraught when I met you on the Observation Deck."
Jim can't help but stare at Spock's hands, as the Vulcan goes back to precisely slicing his breakfast. That's just not…normal. For half a moment he considers dragging Spock to Bones, to see if there's anything wrong with his First. But it is just touching, after all. And even though it sends delicious shivers up Jim's spine, it's not necessarily dangerous, and not yet a cause for concern.
He smiles, as he decides to keep a watch on the Vulcan just in case any other odd symptoms begin to appear, and drags his eyes away from Spock's hands. "Yeah, I think I zoned out a bit there. I had the strangest dream…." And he leaves it at that, switching to the more comfortable subject of ship's operations. Spock doesn't seem to mind the change of subject, as he watches Jim's face intently as they talk.
Under the cover of the table, there is a warm thigh pressed tentatively against Jim's – he can't quite decide if this is a new symptom, but he recognizes the feeling the contact ignites in his blood.
Jim sighs, as he shifts his seat in his command chair. His shift is almost over, and he wants to finish this little piece of work before he leaves. He goes over the report in his hand once again with a critical eye. It's his official version of what happened with the Tele'Vi, but it feels a little off to him. Not the description itself; it feels like something to do with the wording.
"Mr. Spock?" he asks, looking over his shoulder at the science station. It's the first time he's glanced in that direction all morning, used as he is to pretending he's not hyper-aware of its occupant's movements.
The Vulcan glances up at Jim's words, his eyebrow going up in question.
"Can I see you over here for a moment? I can't seem to get this language right." And he has an excuse to watch Spock, as the Vulcan gets up from his station and makes his way over. The easily contained grace the man exudes is intoxicating, and Jim has to give himself a mental shake to break the spell. "This passage, here," he says, pointing to the affected section.
He hopes that Spock will lean over his shoulder, as the Vulcan usually does, to read the report – and he's not disappointed. The sharp smell of the incense Spock prefers envelops Jim, mixed with another scent that is less identifiable but wholly the Vulcan's. Sighing, he takes covert glances at Spock's profile while the other man is occupied.
A hand on his shoulder, burning hot as it circles around and the pad of a thumb gently strokes his collarbone through his uniform. It only takes a heartbeat for the gesture to filter through Jim's surprise, and then he's leaping out of the chair and whipping around to face Spock head-on.
He can't even formulate a response, just stares at Spock wide-eyed and gaping like a fish. The Vulcan, for his part, is drained of all color – except his ears, which are tinged olive.
"Excuse me," Spock murmurs in a voice that testifies how tightly controlled he is. And then he is all stiffness and contained emotion as he makes for the turbolift, exiting the Bridge.
As soon as the turbolift door closes behind him, Uhura is out of her seat like a shot. She stops a handbreadth before him, and he can literally see the anger quivering through her. And there's worry, and confusion, underneath the anger; he can see them clearly in her eyes. "What's the matter with you, doing that? Now go find him, and apologize for acting like an ass."
Her statement is decidedly odd, and something strikes Jim as fundamentally wrong about the entire situation. Uhura is not acting like a jealous girlfriend angry that Jim hurt her boyfriend – she's acting as if she's worried about Spock's opinion of Jim. But that doesn't make any sense.
His mouth opens, to ask what the hell is going on – but he is cognizant of the dozen sets of eyes staring at them, expectant faces all looking at the pair with worry apparent. The Bridge is not the place to hold this type of conversation.
And so he nods, turning to the turbolift as he says, "Sulu, you have the conn."
He doesn't even think twice as he uses his override code to get into Spock's quarters. The anger and confusion are bubbling through him, and he's going to demand to know what the hell is going on here –
Or he was, until he actually gets inside the door, and sees Spock standing in the middle of the room. The Vulcan seems somehow lost, as if he's grasping for something just outside his reach, and the openness of his expression floors Jim, taking all of his anger with it.
Dark eyes rise to meet his, and there's an audible swallow and then Spock speaks. "What did I do wrong, Jim?"
The fact that Jim has to explain the context leaves him dumbfounded, and he struggles to make sense of this. "You have to understand what you did…don't you?" he asks, speaking slowly and carefully.
"When you left the party last night, everything was as it always is between us. But during the intervening hours you strengthened your shielding to the point where I cannot feel your presence any longer. When I came to ascertain whether there is something wrong, you did not allow me to sleep in our bed," Spock replies, the tight control he has on his voice slipping enough to let real worry shine through. "This morning the shielding is still present and you are abnormally distant, and then in front of the entire Bridge crew, and most of your senior staff, you rebuff me."
"Wha-what are you talking about?" the question comes stuttering out, Jim's brain too startled by the implications to try to make it into something more coherent. Shielding? 'Our'bed…?
Spock pulls himself ramrod-straight, looking down his long nose at Jim and raising his eyebrow in that way that's achingly familiar. "Please do not attempt to comfort me with your insistence that there is nothing wrong. If you are dissatisfied with our relationship, please inform me of your reasoning so that I may endeavor to repair it."
Suddenly, Jim's knees feel as if they aren't capable of holding his weight anymore. He collapses into one of Spock's desk chairs, resting his head in his hands. His crazy wish and the floating light that entered the observation deck. He remembers, but he'd thought it'd been a dream.
Gentle fingers stroke his hair, a tremor almost concealed in them. His Spock would never touch him like this. Like this Spock has been doing, since last night. Uhura's reaction, the worry evident on everyone's faces as they watched the apparent fight between Spock and he. It all makes sense, if he takes his dream into consideration.
"Please, t'hy'la, tell me what is wrong. It is obvious you are troubled by something," Spock murmurs quietly, his fingers stroking down until they brush the back of Jim's neck. Unconsciously, he leans into the touch, shivering at the contact.
If this is all a dream, wouldn't he have woken up the moment he realized it was one? Or, if he tells Spock will it break the spell? He's torn, and keeps his face hidden as he tries to think. Part of him, that place deep inside that he's been throttling for a year, begs him not to shatter the spell, to enjoy this for as long as it can last – but he can't. He knows this isn't real, that when Spock is touching him like this it doesn't mean anything, because when he wakes up, or breaks out, or whatever is going to happen, he'll be back with his Spock. The one that only sees Nyota.
Taking a deep breath, he sighs. "Spock, have you ever heard of a being called a 'Q'?" He glances up then, into eyes that look so Human, looking back at him with such worry.
"No, I have not," Spock says quietly, the faintest of frown lines appearing between his perfectly arched brows.
"What if I told you that whatever this 'Q' is – and I'm not sure, myself," he begins, closing his eyes. If the dream is going to end, he will be ready for it. "It cast some sort of spell on me. That this is a dream, or something, and that…in reality, you are still happily involved in a romantic relationship with Nyota Uhura?"
The hands on him still, then one slowly slides forward until it is against his cheek. "Jim, are you unwell? How is it that you are unable to recall our year together?"
He opens his eyes, blinking at Spock who stares back with confusion clear in the furrow between his brows. "I just told you," he tells the dream-figment that isn't disappearing. "You don't love me, you love Nyota, and I'm forced to slowly die by inches as I watch you –" Automatically he cuts off the words, even though this isn't real, and therefore admitting his weakness won't affect anything. Those eyes are still looking at him expectantly, waiting, unsatisfied.
Then a wisp of memory, from what feels like a long time ago, surfaces in the pool of his thoughts. He grasps at the hand resting against his cheek and moves it. Lines up those long fingers he's admired forever with three precise points on his temple, and looks earnestly into those eyes staring back at him.
"If you do this, you can see everything in here, right?" he asks. "See that I'm telling the truth about all of this, no matter how crazy it sounds?" His hand trembles as it holds Spock's fingers in place.
A nod, and then a sense of being filled. Not sudden and overwhelming, as it was with the elder Spock – this is warm, and smooth as if this Spock has joined their minds countless times. Jim is filled with a sense of familiarity and comfort, and then realizes with a start that these are not his, that the feelings are coming from Spock.
It's disconcerting, not being alone in his own head – at least at first, and then Jim lets himself relax into it, and it's as natural as breathing. Shifting around in his mind, he tries to pull the pertinent memories to the fore, lays them out for this Spock to see. The year of longing, silently watching as over and over again Spock demonstrated his devotion for Uhura.
And as this Spock takes over and digs further, unfurling memory after memory, Jim can feel the Vulcan's confusion grow. The touches in his mind turn tentative, but then Jim feels a flash of an idea sparkle through Spock, and the Vulcan dives deep. Insinuates himself into all the cracks and crevices in Jim's mind, and Jim is left gasping in surprise as Spock searches through every piece of himself. Not just his memories laid bare, but everything he is and hopes to become, open and ready for Spock to touch – and he does. There you are.
The tentativeness disappears, and Spock begins stroking the tender places in Jim's mind with a confident mental touch. Spock is in his inner sanctum, the hidden place deep inside where Jim does not even venture – the place that has always ached for Spock, which has kept Jim's love alive even though it should have died long ago.
Ahhhhh. T'hy'la, here you are, as well. The loneliness that has always lived in Jim reaches out for Spock's presence, unfurling and enveloping the Vulcan's presence in his mind – and Jim shudders as Spock responds, merging with that loneliness, taking it to himself and transforming it into…love. You are the one I love. You are mine. You will always be mine. If you do not remember what has gone before between us, it does not matter. We will build new memories, together.
This does not feel like a dream. Nothing has ever felt more real than this, than Spock and he tangled together as one, than the love that is thrumming to him through the link Spock is threading together between them.
He shudders, and some part of him recognizes distantly that there are tears dashing his cheeks. But he doesn't remember crying, and – soft lips press against the tearstains, pulling him partially back to himself, though Spock keeps supporting his mind and filling him with that unfathomable love.
Then lips against his, the touch he's longed for with his entire being for so long. Spock tastes somehow familiar – yet new and vastly complicated – as a hot tongue slips its way inside Jim's mouth. He moans into the kiss, his arms finally coming up and wrapping around Spock – clinging, pulling the Vulcan close because he never wants to let go. Shhhh, t'hy'la, I know. And Jim knows that he does, undeniably and with proof, as he can feel everything that Spock does, know everything that Spock knows, when they are joined like this.
He can feel the tender care, the reverence this man holds for him as he's gently drawn from the chair and towards the bed. Let me heal you…
A touch, a fingertip brushing gently against his forehead, tracing the line of his brow, wakes him. Blinking, Jim pulls himself from the best sleep he's had since…well, since forever. He's curled against a warm form – hotter than he's used to, so it must be some type of alien, perhaps – his head nestled on a shoulder.
Lifting his head just a little bit, he shifts so he can see whose bed he managed to get into last night. And finds himself staring, dumbstruck, into Spock's somehow-smiling eyes. "You…you're still here," Jim mumbles in wonder. Spock is here, and Jim can still feel him through that – whatever Spock did last night, opening a channel between them.
"Of course I am here. This is where I belong – where else would I be?" Spock says, and Jim can somehow feel a curling of humor travel to him through that bond.
The grin that appears on his face then is huge, and Jim feels as if it will split him in two. Without giving Spock any more warning than the jolt of joy Jim's sure flows between them, he plants an ecstatic kiss on those perfect lips. It's not a dream, he's still here, and it doesn't seem as if this – whatever this is – is going to end.
Another curling of humor flows through that conduit, and a long finger taps Jim gently on the nose – startling a chuckle out of him. Then Spock goes back to stroking Jim's skin – this time, the back of his hand. Watching those slim fingers move, Jim notices the particular way Spock is touching him; the two first fingers are pressed together, and he's running them gently up and down Jim's hand.
And he remembers the gesture from last night. His curiosity piqued, he asks, "What does that mean?" A flash of hesitance filters through the bond, and a hint of sadness that is sustained only briefly and then disappears beneath a wave of love.
"It is known as ozh'esta," the Vulcan's voice is deep and warms Jim in ways he never thought possible. "It is how Vulcans kiss."
Tentatively, Jim mimics the gesture, holding his hand up in the same way Spock has his fingers positioned. "Like this?"
Spock's eyes smile at him, as the Vulcan presses the tips of his fingers against Jim's. "Exactly so."
The expression, Spock just so open and here, is enough to make Jim's heart burst, but he just gives Spock a goofy little smile. The Vulcan resumes stroking his fingertips up and down Jim's, the gesture suddenly taking on a wholly erotic element it did not contain before.
Shifting, he presses himself against Spock's hip, responding to the arousal that is flowing to him through the bond. "So," he asks, "how long, exactly, do we have before our shift starts?"Part Two