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Stellar Explosion

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"So are you actually straight?" the actress Jim has been assigned to walk down the red carpet of a movie premiere asks him with some interest.

"Um," he gets out, even as he feels his cheeks flush red.

She laughs. "Oh, honey, don't worry about it. I don't care what you are, so long as you look pretty on my arm."

"You're on my arm," Jim feels obliged to correct her, because yeah.

"Semantics," she says with a wink and a toss of her red hair.

He poses with her when another photographer yells for them to stop, and then obligingly moves aside when paparazzi demand pictures of her alone showing off the drape of her gown and the crazy diamond necklace they've got her wearing. It's enough of a respite that he actually has a few seconds to process her nosy question. I'll get back to you when I figure it out, baby, is what he would say if he were a little more slick and charming. Well, he probably would say that if he was one hundred percent his voice wouldn't crack on the last word.

Because Jim has always figured himself for straight, though he notices sometimes when guys are attractive or silently agrees when girls sigh over this or that movie star. He dates girls for sure. He's even had a real girlfriend for almost six months, at least until the moment Christopher Pike discovered him. Hearing he was off to NYC for who knows how long had ended things with Cindy but quick.

But since that photo shoot with Spock...well. That kind of thing makes a guy wonder.

"Jimmy," the actress he's supposed to be squiring calls out with a smile, and he hurries over to her side.

"Gaila, your fans will be fascinated to know -- is this a new romantic interest?" asks the reporter from some celebrity gossip show. The camera man behind her steps back and pans to include Jim in the shot.

"Jim Kirk and I are just good friends," she coos, sliding her hand down his back to rest just above his hip. "We've been lucky to spend a lot of time together lately, since I've finished out my contract with Disney."

Of course Jim only met her about fifteen minutes before her publicist hustled them both into a limousine earlier this evening, but whatever. "Yeah, we're really good friends," he manages in a strangled sounding voice when she actually cups his butt.

"Don't try to talk, sweetie," she tells him sympathetically in an undertone as the reporter talking to them arches an eyebrow at his words and another photographer shouts for them to come over. "It ruins your whole pretty boy image thing. And believe me, no one wants that."

**********

Back when Jim flew out to New York City and found himself installed in a cramped apartment in Queens with two other models who were also trying to break into the business, he figured he would last a month, maybe two, before everyone figured out that he wasn't meant for this kind of job. Then he imagined he would call his mom and beg for a return plane ticket, or suck it up and fork over his paltry earnings so far for a series of buses bringing him back to Iowa and the lack of expectations waiting for him there.

Because he knows this is all a mistake, really. If he hadn't been in that bar in Riverside that night with his fake ID, fighting with assholes who didn't want him to talk to their girlfriends, Christopher Pike would never have seen Jim and recognized his resemblance to his dad. And if his dad hadn't been the up-and-coming catalogue model that Christopher Pike had looked up to when he himself had started modeling -- and if Jim didn't happen to look like the spitting image of his dad -- he's pretty sure no one in his right mind would have looked past his bloodied nose and bruised jaw to picture Jim sporting designer suits, standing on platforms with his hair being blown gently by an off-camera fan.

But the stars all aligned somehow for just that to happen.

Apparently back in the day everyone said George Kirk was going to go national in a big way, probably appear in huge magazine spreads, maybe even eventually wind up doing bit parts on sitcoms as the regularly-appearing handsome neighbor. But then after shooting his first campaign for J. Crew and on the way home to check on his pregnant wife, George drove his jeep past the site where a bus had just crashed.

The bus blew up from a fuel leak moments after George helped the last person stagger to safety. Unfortunately, George had just gone back one last time to double check no one had been left behind. He never knew that at that exact same moment Jim's mom was giving birth to his son over at Riverside General Hospital.

Jim Kirk wasn't going to take Christopher Pike up on his offer to model at first. After all, he spent most of his childhood shrugging off people who exclaimed how much he resembled his father, denying he would ever follow in George's footsteps whenever someone marveled over his long lashes and blue eyes and enviable bone structure.

But then, "It would mean so much to your dad," Winona Kirk sniffled when Jim came home with smears of blood still under his nose and a pristine white card from Pike Universal Modeling in his hand. So Jim packed up some of his stuff in a duffel bag and used the ticket to JFK Airport Christopher sent, leaving Iowa for the first time in his life.

Even though he'd always done pretty well in school, Jim always thought he didn't have much of a future ahead of him. So when he got to New York, he supposed even the modeling thing probably wouldn't work out beyond one or two jobs. Still, part of him was determined to make those jobs count. So he showed up early, worked hard, and listened to all the advice everyone gave him. Somehow his efforts paid off.

Now here he is, escorting well-known young actresses to big events and getting appointments with fashion house execs considering him to appear in future campaigns.

Of course, part of the surge of interest in Jim might be due to the buzz building since that photo shoot with Spock. According to Jim's agent Janice Rand, there is buzz about how much Bones, the superstar photographer, loved working with them together. There's buzz about what a fantastic contrast Jim and Spock present in looks and temperament. Heck, it even turns out there's even buzz about which huge labels might want to sign the two of them to be the dual faces of this or that brand. In fact, Jim's agent uses the word buzz so many times whenever they talk now that it's starting to make Jim worry that she needs to pick up some new vocab words.

"Hey, tomorrow at 2:15, can you do a walk down lower Central Park West carrying Starbucks coffee with me? Pause at a couple of corners, put your arm around me protectively when we cross streets, that kind of scenario?" Gaila breathes into his ear as if she is proposing they go somewhere and fool around.

"Huh? You want to hang out tomorrow?" Jim asks.

"A paparazzi bait thing," she says impatiently, despite keeping her smile wide and delighted. She snuggles close to him and giggles even as her tone stays all brisk professionalism. "You know, someone sees us on the news together from tonight's thing, and then we're spotted on all the gossip blogs tomorrow canoodling with coffee? Make it an are-they-or-aren't-they kind of situation? We've gotten some good tweets on the red carpet appearance, and my P.R. team feels like we should strike while the iron is hot."

"I guess? I have a nighttime shoot tomorrow, but I should be free during the day. You just have to clear it with Janice," Jim tells her, still confused over what he is being asked to do.

"Thanks, sweetie; you're a real doll," Gaila praises him before tugging him along the red carpet.

**********

As much as Jim feels like he's learning on the job with this modeling thing and all its attendant publicity strangeness, fake dates involving coffee props and lurking paparazzi still seem weird to think about.

But Jim would rather think about that stuff than get nervous about his nighttime shoot tomorrow. Because tomorrow's gig means seeing Spock again for the first time in almost two weeks.

Not that it means anything, seeing Spock again. Except that it kind of does. Aside from his agent going on about how key this will be for Jim's career, Jim's roommates keep acting super impressed that Jim gets to work with Spock a second time. And even though Jim is really good at pushing down his feelings about stuff, he can't exactly miss the fact that his heart beats a little faster when he thinks about encountering Spock once more.

At home that night (after Gaila drops him off at a Manhattan subway station with a bright, sharp laugh at the silly idea of taking him all the way back to Queens), Jim pages through the piles of fashion magazines stacked in the tiny living room of his apartment. Spock is in tons of the spreads -- not so many that he risks overexposure, but enough so that anyone seeing the same photos would be struck by how much he dominates the modelling scene.

"He really is something," Jim says aloud in a hushed voice when he finds an image of Spock in an aggressive crouch, seeming as if he's ready to start running at any moment like a predator. He traces his finger down the glossy page, over the dark sheen of Spock's hair, along the sharpness of his jawline, then to Spock's strong shoulders --

"Who is something?" Sulu, one of his roommates, asks suddenly.

Jim tries not to jump a mile into the air. Sulu must have just gotten home from the string of exclusive parties he always goes to really early; either that, or Jim has been staring at pictures of Spock for way longer than he thought.

"What? No one. What?" Jim asks, crumpling the magazine in his rush to stash it under one of the couch cushions.

"Your shoot with Spock is tomorrow, huh?" Sulu says knowingly.

"Yes?" Jim clears his throat after his voice breaks. He wouldn't mind talking to someone about his jitters, but Sulu and Scotty, his two roommates, are notorious gossips. Jim figures he better keep any of what might be going on with Spock -- not that there's anything going on! -- to himself.

"Well, then, you better head to bed, kiddo. We want those baby blues sparkling for the cameras!"

Jim nods at Sulu's grin and stumbles off. It's for the job that he's going to get well rested as he can, he tells himself. Not because he wants Spock to see him again and think that maybe there is a special buzz that comes from the two of them being together.