Chapter 7: A Plan
…he started to concoct a plan…
The people of Riverside were very fond of gossip. As Spock’s mother had attempted to explain, it was a small town, and there was very little the humans could do to amuse themselves. In Spock’s opinion, that did not make it excusable.
Especially when the particular objects of fascination—for the current standard Earth week at least—were Jim and Spock.
“Did you hear?!? That Vulcan is hanging out with the Kirk boy?”
“The Kirk boy? Jim Kirk? What would a Vulcan want with a no good delinquent?”
Spock stopped walking and looked over to assess the two people who were blatantly violating his and Jim’s privacy. Two women were standing across the street from him outside the corner pharmacy. They didn’t notice his stare for several moments, but when they did they immediately lowered their voices as though it would keep him from hearing them.
“You don’t think… He didn’t hear us, did he?” the younger woman said in hushed tones.
“Don’t be silly,” her white-haired companion whispered back. “He’s all the way over there.”
Spock just raised one eyebrow at them, causing them to hurry back inside the shop.
Of course he could hear them. Spock was a Vulcan, and Vulcan hearing was decidedly superior to that of a human being. While this was usually an asset, Spock could not help but wish that he could turn it off on occasions such as this.
It had started out as a simple grocery run for his mother, but every human he passed was talking, whispering about him and Jim and the amount of time they now spent together.
Spock didn’t care what they said about him, but what they said about Jim was sometimes extremely insulting. Spock was just glad that Jim didn’t have the ability to hear them as he did.
“Spock?” Jim inquired, having to backtrack as he had continued walking when Spock had stopped. “What’s wrong?”
“It is nothing, Jim,” Spock replied, turning toward the human. “Let us return with the food so that my mother can begin dinner. I am sure she is waiting for us.”
Jim just glared at him suspiciously for a moment before spinning on his heel and continuing toward the house.
Despite the commencement of winter break, Jim had been joining Amanda and Spock for dinner most nights in the eighteen days since he had come over for cocoa, and though he seemed more comfortable with it now, he had not originally been the most gracious of guests.
It had been what Spock now considered to be their first day of actual (and tentatively acknowledged) friendship. Spock had been walking Jim home from school on the last day of the semester when the human had stopped him and pushed him up against a nearby tree, holding him there by one shoulder. The Vulcan had known he could easily break Jim’s hold, but he had thought it better to let his t’hy’la “release some steam”, as the humans said.
“Look, Spock, I don’t trust you, okay?” Spock’s eyes widened. He had been and was still hurt by Jim’s declaration. It pained him to know that his t’hy’la, the one person who he would always drop everything for, no matter what the circumstances, viewed him from a place of mistrust. “But your mom’s really nice, and maybe hanging out with you will get me an actual meal once in a while, so that’s fine. I want you to know though, if you screw me over, Vulcan or not, I will find a way to make you pay for it.”
Though he usually made an effort to hide any emotions his voice conveyed, Spock had long since come to the conclusion that doing so when speaking with Jim would only hamper his attempts to form a relationship with his human, and so, at the time, covering up his shock had been the last thing on his mind. Spock had been startled and his voice reflected it when he spoke. “In what way could I possibly ‘screw you over’?”
Jim scoffed. “Let’s see,” he told Spock, pretending to think about it. “You could drug me; you could rape me; you could kidnap me; you could beat me.” He paused and glared at Spock. “Do I really need to go on? I’ve seen worse things done to better people, and if you and your family think you’re getting one over on me, you’re shitting yourselves.”
“Jim,” Spock said, not really knowing how to reply. While he had known that Jim had seen some terrible things, Spock had not been aware of how extensive and how horrible those things were. “My family and I are not capable of the acts you describe.”
“Why don’t I believe you?” Jim retorted.
“Vulcans do not lie, Jim,” Spock replied. “Although, as I am attempting to be honest with you, I feel I must mention that we do sometimes spin the truth to reflect positively in our favor. That is a closely guarded secret, however, so please do not speak of it with anyone besides myself.”
Jim had just given him an unfathomable look and used Spock’s shoulder to push himself backward so that they could keep walking, making sure to leave at least five feet of space between them at all times.
That distance had narrowed significantly since then, and Spock had found that their friendship was becoming more like what he craved when he thought of Jim. It was not even close to being romantic as of yet, but it was almost like a real friendship.
Before the semester had ended, they had been walking to school together every morning, talking, and eating both lunch and dinner together. After the second day of sitting with Jim for lunch, and noticing once again that the human refused to eat, Spock also began bringing Jim a packed lunch along with his own. Jim had been reluctant to accept the lunch on the first day, but after ten minutes of it just sitting on the table, Jim had finally pulled it toward him and inspected it suspiciously. He had glared at it for a moment before slowly opening the brown paper bag (which Spock had used at his mother’s insistence) and peering inside. When Jim had reached in, grabbed the sandwich, unwrapped it, and took a bite, Spock felt a surge of joyful vindication surge through him.Spock had felt an even keener sense of triumph when Jim agreed to continue having lunch after the semester had ended. Spock had been inventing errands as an excuse to see Jim now that school was no longer in session. After the first few times, Jim had scowled at him and said that if he wanted to have lunch with him, Spock didn’t need to “make shit up” to get him to go. Spock was gratified despite the failure of his deception because each meal they shared allowed him to learn more about his t’hy’la than he ever could have through scientific observation. Though he was aware that Jim was more likely reacting to the food rather than his company, Spock still saw this small step forward for the significant progress that it was.
And when he had noticed a few days later that Jim had begun to gain weight, he was almost visibly excited.
Jim jabbed Spock in the side with his elbow, drawing him out of his reverie. “Hey Spock,” he started slowly, as though unsure as to whether he actually wanted to initiate conversation. “What was that back there? You’ve never…” Jim hesitated, and then corrected himself. “I mean, I’ve never seen you get upset about anything. What did those women… well, did they do something to you?”
Spock did not know how he should reply. He did not wish for Jim to know how the people in Riverside viewed him. Though it was likely he already knew, Spock was sure that having it stated explicitly would in no way improve their relationship, and though his t’hy’la would be more likely to show anger than hurt, he knew that hearing such a thing would upset Jim.
However, he had also recently professed to Jim that Vulcans did not lie, and so, he could not in good conscience do so now.
After precisely 1.6836 minutes of pondering this conundrum, Spock chose his words very carefully. “Humans often forget the acuity of Vulcan senses. My ability to perceive sounds is much greater when compared to that of the average human. Though they seemed to be unaware of the fact they were within sufficient distance for me to overhear their conversation, it still remains true that I did overhear and that I did take exception to it.”
“What did they say?” Jim asked.
Spock had been hoping that Jim would not ask this particular question. He really did not wish to lie to him, and so he found himself telling a version of the truth. “They were speaking ill of someone very close to me, and I was unable to curb my reaction.”
Jim was smarter than most people gave him credit for, and Spock knew that he could probably “read between the lines”, as his mother would say. Jim didn’t anything about it though, just hefted the grocery bags he was carrying from one hand to the other and kept walking.
Spock followed behind him at a slightly more sedate pace, knowing what would be waiting for them when they arrived at his house, and though Jim did not see it, there was the ghost of a smile tugging at his lips.
Jim hated January 4th. In his opinion, it was the shittiest day out of the shit pile that was his year. January 4th was the most recent and well known date taught in history classes. January 4th was the day of the Kelvin disaster. January 4th was the day his father had given himself up as a god damned martyr. And least importantly, January 4th was the day James Tiberius Kirk had been forcefully shoved into his miserable existence.
Not that anyone actually acknowledged the fact that it was his birthday. All day long it had been Kelvin this, Kelvin that, wasn’t George Kirk a great man, yeah, my uncle wouldn’t even be alive without him, blah, blah, blah.
School was starting again tomorrow, and Jim had no doubt that there would be the usual mandatory fifteen minutes of silence at the beginning of first period to be used “to reflect on and remember the victims of the Kelvin disaster and to reminisce on the sacrifice of the hero George Kirk”. Jim remembered being yelled at one year for snorting in response to that, prompting his teacher to scold him for “not giving his father the respect he deserved” after the period of silence had come to an end.
Yeah. Happy fucking birthday to him.
Though he wouldn’t admit it, Jim had been looking forward to getting to Spock’s house since he had gotten up that morning. Sure, he wasn’t the Vulcan’s biggest fan, but at least Spock and his mother would treat him like an actual person instead of like the unwanted son of George Kirk. Most people didn’t exactly hide the fact that they didn’t think he deserved the life his father’s sacrifice had given him, and occasionally it was nice to not be looked at as though he were better off dead.
It had kinda pissed him off when Amanda had called, said that she needed something from the store, and asked if they could please get it for her after they were done with another one of Spock’s bogus errands (which were still a thing despite the many times he had told Spock to stop making shit up). Like hell did he want to go to the fucking grocery store on today of all days; it’d be like throwing himself to the wolves. But he couldn’t complain about it either. Amanda had been so nice to him, and so far, she hadn’t poisoned him. Being a dick just because he didn’t want to hear all of the things people were going to say about him whether he was there or not wasn’t really something he could do.
So instead he sighed and tagged along behind Spock while they purchased Amanda’s two gallons of non-dairy milk substitute (which somehow actually tasted better than real milk), pound of 70% dark chocolate (she used it to make their hot chocolate), loaf of bread (for he and Spock’s lunches), and two boxes of soy butter.
Jim was really fucking tired of all the stares by the time they finally dragged it all out of the store. He was just about to cross the line into seriously pissed off when he realized that Spock wasn’t beside him anymore. Jim looked back and saw that the Vulcan was glaring across the street at a couple of gossipy old hags who, judging by the looks they were giving them, were definitely talking about him and Spock.
He was taken aback. Jim knew he had never seen Spock show so much emotion on his face. Whatever those women were saying, it was really upsetting Spock. It must not be about him then; there was no way he could ever cause a Vulcan to lose that mask of stoicism.
A few minutes later when Spock said that they were “speaking ill of someone very close to him”, Jim couldn’t help but wonder again. He couldn’t imagine someone saying anything bad about Amanda, and he was pretty sure no one would have the balls to badmouth the Vulcan’s father (Jim had heard stories about him). Spock wouldn’t get that upset about something that involved himself, and besides, he had specifically said “someone very close to him”. Spock didn’t have any other friends, so it was very possible that he meant Jim.
Jim decided not to say anything about it. Sure he had his suspicions, but sometimes he got the feeling that Spock actually liked him. While he didn’t care one way or the other whether Spock liked him or not, Jim didn’t really want to prove himself wrong just yet. Not today anyway. Birthdays were bad enough even when he didn’t take extra steps to prove that the whole fucking world really did hate him.
When he got to the door at Spock’s place, Jim started to go inside before noticing that Spock was still several paces behind him. He turned around and watched the Vulcan approach before doing a double take. For a moment, he had almost thought he saw a smile on Spock’s lips, but when he got closer, Jim realized that it must have been some kind of fucked up trick of the light or something. Spock didn’t smile (well, apart from that one time, but Jim did not think about that), so it was impossible that he was smiling now.
What did he know that Jim didn’t?
When Spock finally dragged his slow ass up the front steps, Jim finally turned around and entered the house. Once inside, he couldn’t stop his jaw from hitting the floor.
There was a hand-painted banner strung from one side of the entranceway to the other that read “Happy 15th Birthday, Jim!” Underneath the banner were Amanda and an older Vulcan who Jim deduced must be Spock’s father. He didn’t move forward to greet them. He couldn’t move. Jim Kirk was in shock.
“Jim?” Spock tried to get his attention, but Jim could draw his eyes away from the banner. They had thrown him a birthday party. They had thrown him a fucking birthday party.
“Jim,” Amanda said, smiling warmly at him. “Happy birthday.”
Jim could only nod, a lump forming in his throat. Nobody had ever thrown him a party before. In fact, most people were so caught up in the fact that the day was apparently supposed to be a day of mourning that nobody gave a damn about him enough to even wish him a happy birthday. Fuckers. He hadn’t needed them anyway, and he hadn’t needed any stupid birthday wishes either.
Even so, Jim had to admit that being acknowledged was… nice.
“You…” Jim started, looking at Amanda. “This is for me?”
Spock’s mother just grinned at him. “Yes. It was all Spock’s idea.”
Jim turned to Spock. “I’ve never had a birthday party before.”
Fuck, he supposed he should show a little gratitude. After all, the guy had gone out of his way to do something for him. He squashed down the part of him that was screaming at him to run because things that seemed to good to be true always were (and Spock was definitely too good to be true) and that the times when life eases up a little are the times to be most cautious because every god damned piece of shit it dropped on him just feels so much heavier when he wasn’t used to it anymore. For now, he was just going to put all of those issues aside and enjoy his fucking party.
“Thank you, Spock.” He had to push the words past gritted teeth, but at least he had said them.
Spock just inclined his head to acknowledge his words. “Jim,” he said. “This is my father, Sarek.” He gestured to the older Vulcan.
This was the first time Jim had met Spock’s father. According to Spock, Sarek had been away at a diplomatic function for the past two weeks. Jim hadn’t really cared one way or another, but now, he couldn’t help but feel nervous about meeting Sarek. Sarek was, in Jim’s humble opinion, much more intimidating than Spock could ever hope to be.
Jim held out his hand. “It’s, uh, nice to meet you… sir,” he added belatedly.
Spock sucked in a breath, and Amanda laughed, stepping forward to push his hand down. “Vulcans don’t shake hands, Jim.”
Jim looked at her in confusion before turning to stare at Spock. “You don’t?” When Spock simply nodded in affirmation, Jim demanded, “Why not?”
“Vulcans are touch telepaths. For a Vulcan, the hands are the means by which we direct our psychic abilities, and so, are very sensitive to contact.” Spock paused for a moment in thought before adding. “They are also considered an erogenous zone. Vulcans kiss with their hands.”
Jim couldn’t prevent his face from flooding with color. “So I just tried to…”
“Kiss my father. Yes.”
Jim would swear that somewhere behind that stupidly blank face the bastard was laughing at him.
“I do not take offense, Jim,” Sarek spoke for the first time. “You are unaware of our culture and our biological differences.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jim said because he didn’t know what else he could say.
“You may call me Sarek.”
“Well,” Amanda said, her hands coming together with a slap as she diffused the somewhat awkward atmosphere. “Jim, why don’t you and Spock go sit down in the dining room while Sarek and I grab the meal from the kitchen.” She looked down and saw the bags they were still holding. “Spock, do you mind putting the groceries away?”
Spock gently removed the bags from Jim’s frozen hands, obviously being very careful not to even graze Jim’s fingers with his own. As Jim walked dazedly into the dining room, he ruthlessly and unsuccessfully tried to suppress the disappointment.
They were having spaghetti for dinner. Overall the meal wasn’t all that exciting, and though Jim had never had vegan spaghetti, he wasn’t exactly picky about his food as long as he knew he could trust it not to be poisoned. It didn’t hurt that Amanda was an amazing cook. Seriously, it seemed to Jim that everything she concocted almost made him want to cry and caused him to fervently wish that she were his mother instead of Winona.
Sarek didn’t say much over the course of the meal. He and Amanda didn’t seem to need words to communicate—Jim wasn’t sure whether it was a result of the fact that they had been married for a while or if there was more Vulcan mind voodoo going on—and whatever he and Spock usually talked about did not seem to be stuff they wanted to talk about at the dinner table. Or maybe they just didn’t want to talk about it in front of him. Whatever it was, Jim just knew that it was making for two silent Vulcans with him and Amanda doing most of the talking.
Typical, he thought. Spock wasn’t much of a conversationalist under normal circumstances, so he didn’t know why he was surprised that that seemed to be a family trait. Or it could be a Vulcan thing. Jim didn’t really know or care.
Sarek finally spoke about halfway through dinner. “Spock, I believe your t’hy’la has an empty glass. It is only polite for you to refill it for him.”
The rest of the table froze, though Jim did not understand why. “What is t’hy’la?” he wondered aloud, looking between the other occupants of the room. Sarek was looking contrite (though Jim thought it looked a bit forced), Amanda was stifling a giggle behind one hand (she was totally in on it, whatever it was), and was it just him, or was Spock turning green? “Spock, are you…”
“I will retrieve the soy milk from the kitchen. It will only take me a moment, Jim.” And before Jim could say another word, Spock was out of his seat and hurrying into the kitchen.
It took Jim a minute to realize that Spock hadn’t answered his question.
A moment later, he was back with the gallon of milk. Spock topped off each person’s glass before darting quickly back into the kitchen to return it to the refrigerator.
“Amanda,” Jim started, trying to take advantage of Spock’s absence while he could. “What does t’hy’la mean?”
“It has many meanings, Jim,” she replied, still looking somewhat mischievous. “It’s most common meaning is ‘friend’, but it can also mean…”
“Mother,” Spock interrupted—and if Jim weren’t already sure that something fishy was going on, Spock interrupting Amanda would have done it. “As we have all completed the main course, would you like me to bring the cake to the table?”
Amanda didn’t look as though she was fooled for one second by Spock’s attempts to redirect the conversation, but she allowed herself to be distracted. “Yes, of course. Sarek, if you could help me clear the table.” She rose from her seat and grabbed Jim’s plate as well as her own.
“What can I do?” Jim started to get up as well, feeling awkward about having them do all the work.
Amanda just smiled at him. “You can sit back down, Jim. You’re the birthday boy,” she explained. “You aren’t allowed to do any work at your own party.”
The next fifteen minutes were a whirl of singing (surprisingly on key) and blowing out candles (it took him three tries during which time he vehemently refused to let himself make a wish) and cake (vanilla with buttercream frosting and absolutely delicious, of course), all things that Jim had never experienced firsthand.
Jim was feeling completely overwhelmed by the time they brought out the presents. Actual presents.
While there were a lot of things that had thrown him tonight, the presents were worse than anything that had come before them. Jim had never—not even once in his life—received a present for his birthday. And now they were each just fucking giving him one like it was an everyday occurrence.
His mother had given him presents before, but it had never been for a good reason. When he was younger, she had felt guilty for being such a horrible parent. She gave him one or two things a year to make up for not being home. He never got presents on Christmas and his birthday of course (too many bad memories for her), but those small gifts were enough to at least allow himself to pretend she cared.
After Sam left and he got sent to Tarsus, she had stopped trying. He assumed that her line of reasoning for that went along the lines of “if he’s not going to behave, I don’t have to feel guilty because he’s not trying either”.
The point was Jim had never gotten birthday presents, and getting them now was kinda choking him up a bit.
At her insistence, he took Amanda’s first. He ran his fingers almost reverently over the wrapping before finally tearing into the paper. Inside was a white box that contained…
Oh. Oh wow, she had gotten him a jacket. A syntho-leather jacket. The coat was black with several pockets, a front zip, and an amazingly silky interior. God, how had she known? The last few months had been freezing, and Jim hadn’t gotten a new jacket in years. This one in particular was nicer than anything he had ever owned, and he wanted it so badly.
He couldn’t accept it though. It was too much. He had to give it back.
“Amanda…” he started.
“Now, Jim, don’t even think about trying to give that back to me,” she scolded gently. “The sale was final, so if you don’t take it, what am I supposed to do with it? It wouldn’t fit Spock or Sarek, and it would just look silly on me. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you shivering when you walk in here for dinner.”
She looked as though she wanted to continue, but before she could, Sarek interjected, “Jim, it would be easier on all of us if you took the gift. If you do not, she will continue her attempts to persuade until you do.” Jim was about to protest, but he just shook his head and said, “I have many years of experience with my wife. It is much less problematic to simply do as she says.”
Fuck it, Jim thought. This winter has been fucking brutal. “Thank you, Amanda.”
Amanda beamed at him, and Spock stepped forward, his own present for Jim proffered in his hand. Jim set the leather jacket and its box down on the table before taking Spock’s gift. He tore back the wrappings before staring in shock at the object in his hands.
It was a book, and honest to god book with pages. Jim had only seen a real book one time in his life, and he had never touched one. But now, he was holding one with his own hands. It was... fucking awesome.
Hard copies of books were very hard to find in the twenty-third century. They had been replaced by digital copies over two hundred years ago. The reprinting of books had eventually dwindled and then disappeared altogether, and up until the turn of the century, people had done nothing to restore the old copies of books they already had. These days, books were extremely expensive, and this book in particular must have cost a fortune.
It was a Sherlock Holmes novel. The Sign of Four was the title embossed on the front cover. Jim had heard of Sherlock Holmes in his literature class, but he had never had the chance to read any of the great detective’s adventures. Jim had always had a liking for reading, but he had always been limited to textbooks and whatever books were assigned for school. Having the opportunity to read a Sherlock Holmes novel—and not just the digitized version, but the actual novel itself—was the greatest gift anyone could have given him.
And once again, he couldn’t accept.
“Spock, I can’t take this. It must have cost a fortune.”
“On the contrary, Jim, it did not cost me anything,” Spock disagreed. “I have been in possession of that book since my mother gave it to me when I was a child. I have read it countless times since then. It is my favorite, and because it is my favorite, I would like to share it with you.”
Jim just stared at him, completely speechless. Spock had just given him his most prized possession. Spock had just given him a book. One word went around and around in Jim’s head: Why?
Jim was still in a daze when he left Spock’s house an hour later, his book and his new jacket safely tucked away in his backpack. It wasn’t until he reached his own house and entered through the front door that he realized what time it was.
It was after seven o’clock. Frank was home, and he was waiting for Jim.
Fuck, he should have known the bastard would be home early today. Jim’s birthday was an unpleasant day for everyone in Jim’s life, even Frank. While Winona had always been reminded of her husband’s death, Frank had always been reminded of the fact that he wasn’t George Kirk and that Winona had only married him so that he could be a glorified baby sitter. If Frank hadn’t been such a dickwad, Jim might have actually felt sorry for him.
Unfortunately for Jim, being reminded of that fact made Frank even more pissed off than usual. “Where the fuck have you been, boy?” Frank snarled. “You don’t get to walk in here at all hours of the night. Come here.” He grabbed Jim roughly by the arm and dragged him into the house.
Spock was feeling strangely satisfied in the aftermath of Jim’s birthday dinner. Even as he assisted his parents in their efforts to clean up, he was recollecting the manner in which Jim’s face had brightened when he had opened Spock’s present, and how the human had looked at him with a look that completely free of all of the wariness that usually tainted it. It made him happy, he realized, to see Jim look at him like that.
Overall, the evening had gone very well. The only problem that Spock could see was his father intentionally referring to Jim as his t’hy’la while in the human’s presence. Sarek had to have known that Jim would begin to ask questions, and considering the way his own interference had made it look as though he was hiding things, Spock knew that Jim would most likely start asking those questions soon.
He needed to know. He needed to know why his father would do such a thing.
“Father,” Spock said. “Why did you inform Jim of the fact that we are t’hy’la? I chose not to inform him because he is human and I did not want to ‘freak him out’.”
Sarek stopped drying the dishes and turned to him. “Spock, I too fell in love with a human, and while your mother and I are not t’hy’la, I did have to explain certain cultural and biological aspects of our race. In your case, I believe it would be better if he came to you with his questions rather than relying upon you to tell him.”
“It’s really my fault, Spock,” Amanda admitted. “I know you, and I know that you would end up not saying anything about it until the last possible moment. You wouldn’t have done it on purpose, but Jim would still end up being hurt by it if everything turned out that way. So I asked your father what we should do about it. I didn’t quite know it would turn out this way,” She sent Sarek a reproving look. “But I think it’s probably for the best.”
“He will be able to come to you with questions when he is ready,” Sarek added. “I believe you will find this to be the more advantageous position.”
Spock did not know if he agreed with his father, but he had much to think about before he could make a decision one way or another.