“There she is,” Pike says, gesturing up above them into the Iowa sun, so that they’re all staring up at the Enterprise rising out of the cornfields and backed not by a setting of stars but a bright blue sky and trails of clouds against it. What will someday be the whistles and pings of the computer, voices crackling over comm systems, and the ringing of klaxons seem far away with the sound of workers and welders and technicians calling to each other, the whip of the wind past them, and the staccato fall of boots against the ground, gravel crunching under foot until the even rhythm stops only feet from their group.
“Captain, do you have further direction as to where the-“
The turn towards him feels slower than it needs to be, a winding down of the moment they’re in, the space between his words stretching out, caught and held heavy in the air around them as she sees those eyes of his as they come up from his padd, as clear and as brown as she remembers, blinking at her from the same pillow, creased in amusement he wouldn’t admit to, soft that first night they kissed, gentler than anything she had ever seen. Has ever seen, since then, all that time ago and it’s still seared into her memory, etched there and chiseled in, how he always looked at her.
He seems thin. Or maybe not, maybe it’s just been a year since she’s seen him and he’s always been that slim, or maybe it’s his uniform, not instructor blacks but that blue of his science shirt he had traded for instead. The gray jacket she was so used to never fell loose around his waist like that. Instead it crumpled, ended up creased and wrinkled on his floor, let fall from fingers that were busy and searching and grasping so that it was left in a rumple next to his bed, forgotten.
That second, thicker stripe on his cuff seems to glint in the sun, too vibrant, too vivid and brilliant and it had been, hadn’t it, a reason enough to set off for the stars. They would talk, they promised, his whispered words still too bright in her mind, his lips and breath against her ear and his hand curled around his arm with how much he meant it, his thumb rubbing back and forth across her skin just how she liked. He had meant it, in that earnest and honest way of his. She had too, and they did talk and then they didn’t, and now they don’t, at all, a slow slip and slide into nothing, everything that was anything between them trickling away in a creep so prolonged that she had thought maybe the gradual fall of it all would be relief enough from how it did - still does - claw at her.
How much she misses him knifes through her, lodges beneath her ribs and twists her breath in her chest.
“-Replacement coil for the axial transition sensor might be found?” Spock finishes and she feels time wrench back into action in the hammering, drumming of her pulse that is pounding through her, the hot chill racing across her skin and that flutter, that certain jumping race in her stomach that always - always, since that first day and now, still, apparently, all this time later - starts whenever she sees him.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” Pike says, beginning to guide them all away and Spock doesn’t answer which is good because his voice.
As she moves past him she thinks for a moment that she can smell him, all clean laundry and soap and incense so that the memory of his apartment floats up in how the sun used to dapple the walls of his bedroom on sunny mornings, the way the varnished wood of his table felt under her nails as she drummed her fingers on it while doing her work, the particular feel of his carpet under bare feet, the wash of warm air whenever she opened the door, stepped inside to find him there waiting for her, already and always rising to greet her.
He doesn’t live there anymore. Moved out, emptied out the rooms, left on the Lexington and left her curled up in her bed, staring at the wall with the impression of their last kiss still burned into her.
She feels his eyes follow her and she feels herself hang on the precipice of a decision, the possibility of meeting them rife in the air around them both as she walks away.