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Stellar Explosion

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Jim's coffee "date" with Gaila is easier than he expects. But it's even less about coffee than it is about dating. When Gaila's publicist gets them started on their walk at a bench in Central Park, she hands them the familiar paper coffee cups with logos and cardboard sleeves, but it turns out they're only half-filled with water.

"Hey," Jim mumbles when he takes his first sip. It really calls for indignant exclamations, but he's too freaking tired. He really could have used that coffee; he'd been up late looking at all those photos of Spock -- researching his fellow models for purely business purposes. After that, he had a tough time getting to sleep, feeling too antsy about all the following day held.

"I thought at least I would get a caramel macchiato out of this," he grumbles as the publicist appears utterly unimpressed and tugs his shirt to be the degree of disheveled she and Gaila agree will look hot.

"Coffee stains the teeth," Gaila says when Jim asks a third time when they're really going to get lattes. "And we'd rather waste that on red wine, am I right?"

At least the actual staged walk is a breeze. Jim just has to sling an arm around Gaila's shoulders and nuzzle her neck while she laughs and flips her hair back. Then he frowns at the paparazzi who turn up (as tipped off anonymously by Gaila's publicist, of course), and pulls Gaila protectively closer. It's all planned out, and it's all pretty simple.

They walk along a cross street as if trying to escape the press, and as if by some hidden signal, the photographers melt away when they reach a block with lots of other pedestrians going in and out of various shops.

"Hey, look an actual Starbucks," Jim says pitifully when Gaila immediately pulls away from him to reapply her lipstick and smooth her wind-blown red hair. It's across the street; Jim figures he can nearly get a contact caffeine high if he inhales just right.

"Oh, fine, you big baby. Let's go get you a venti," she says with a roll of her eyes. At least she seems amused when she winks at him and drags him inside.

 

**********

 

Jim gets two huge coffees out of the deal: his own extra-extra-caramel drink and the rest of Gaila's chestnut praline beverage (after she takes the tiniest of sips and wrinkles her pretty nose at how much sugar has gone into the latte).

They actually walk for a little bit together afterward, even though it's "off the clock," as Gaila says cheerfully. Jim's so busy nodding along at her various tales of woe over which of the big film roles she's being offered she might take that he barely notices downing the contents of both cups in record time.

So he's a little hyper even after his commute back to his neighborhood. After bouncing out of the subway car, he takes the stairs out of the station two at a time. It's when he hits the sidewalk that he realizes he's gotten an unexpected email from his agent. He frowns as he pulls to the side so he won't get slammed by people rushing by him; he had figured he wouldn't hear from her until after tonight's shoot.

"SHOOT DELAYED," her message reads. Jim can't figure out if Rand feels more important when she's sending military style messages that read like old time telegrams or if she just loves typing in all-caps for the drama. "DO NOT PANIC. YET. AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS."

It seems a little strange that the job has gotten postponed, but not overly odd. If it wasn't for Rand's kinda menacing sounding YET, he might not think too hard about it.

At least, he doesn't over-think it until he turns the corner to keep trudging toward his apartment and gets a text from a number he's never seen before:

Your affiliation with Gaila seems inadvisable.

Jim squints at his phone screen before tapping out, Huh? Who is this?

There's a long pause before he finally gets another alert.

This is Spock, the next text reads.

Jim's heart nearly thumps right out of his chest. Hi!, he keys in before swearing at himself for how stupid he'll come off. He deletes the word and exclamation point. How did you get my number? is the next text he nearly sends but erases. He stops at the gate of a brownstone to thunk himself in the forehead with his phone, because it really shouldn't be this hard to make up a reply. He just doesn't want to come off all naïve or awkward with Spock, even though Spock's mode of talking can seem on the awkward side too (though from Spock it sounds like he's just way more educated than anyone else). It's just, Jim barely knows the guy. But even so, somehow he wants to impress him.

While Jim starts walking again hurriedly, panicking about what he should actually say next, another text arrives.

I obtained your number from a mutual acquaintance. My hope is that I have not offended you in utilizing it.

No, it's cool, Jim texts quickly. He doesn't have time to wonder which of their "mutual acquaintances" could have supplied the info; it's not like he knows many people in the city, and it's hard to imagine Spock is pals with the handful of people in the metropolitan area Jim has in his list of contacts. But whoever gave Spock his number, great, awesome.

He takes a deep breath and sends, How do you know about me and Gaila? Of course he winces once the words are shown up as "sent". Yeah, he's curious what Spock meant by that first text, and totally baffled how Spock even discovered Jim was hanging around thing with Gaila. But ugh, what he wrote sounds all demanding. He probably should have led with something about their gig getting rescheduled, something that sounds confident and disinterested and suave. He wants Spock to think he's got his act together, not that he's some total mess of a rookie. And though there are plenty of things Jim wouldn't mind talking to Spock about, he's not really interested in making Gaila the topic of conversation.

There's another silence in the conversation, a very long one, while Jim continues the eight block hike from his stop to his apartment. He's actually halfway up the stairs when he finally gets the next message.

I had thought your association with Gaila was of a professional nature. Please excuse my misapprehension.

But it is. Professional, I mean Jim texts back in confusion. He stops dead on the stairs just to get the message sent even if the hallway in their walkup is sort of smelly; in the back of his mind he makes a note that old Mrs. Lau up on the next floor might need help taking her trash down to the basement again.

It's only publicity stuff. Just some red carpet thing and then coffee. Jim adds in a second text when he realizes what he first wrote might not be totally clear. For some reason that doesn't seem like enough to assure Spock that Jim's not actually involved with Gaila, so he quickly types a third text: No big deal.

Forgive my intrusion the reply reads. There's something weirdly sharp about the words, even if obviously Jim knows a guy can't really make assumptions about tone from texts or emails. All the same, he's picturing Spock how he looked when Jim first met him -- completely blank with perhaps a hint of disdain -- before they'd gotten a little friendlier. Okay, a lot friendlier.

Jim tries to ignore the fact that he's blushing as he remembers Spock's hand brushing the small of his back, and instead says, "Come on, come on," to himself under his breath. What should he reply next? It's not an intrusion? He wouldn't mind if maybe Spock intruded on his life a little more, see where that might go? That Spock's totally been intruding on Jim's thoughts since they met?

Be well until we meet again comes a moment later.

Okay, so that's pretty much a dismissal. Jim sighs. Soon, right? he texts back at once. Whenever this job gets rescheduled. I'll see you then, okay?

Jim waits for a reply, tapping his fingers on the railing in the stairwell, trying not to dwell on how desperate the last message he sent sounded.

But Spock never answers, so unfortunately Jim has plenty of time to cringe over it.

"It probably wasn't that bad," he mutters to himself that night, again alone in the apartment. Sulu got invited to some gallery opening near DUMBO, and Scotty is off with a crew of models he's friends with, headed to a trendy new bar. They'd invited him at the last minute as an afterthought, but he wasn't feeling much like socializing. At least rooming with guys who like to party so much leaves Jim with time on his own, even if sometimes he thinks it's a little too much time by himself. It's not that he's lonely -- except it sort of is, actually.

So with nothing better to do than obsess over how he had sounded in his final reply to Spock, he opens his phone to check the conversation again.

And he's startled to realize that in the rush of chatting with Spock that afternoon, and the lingering buzz from way too much caffeine in his system, he never noticed that two of his messages failed to send.

His phone reads:


I had thought your association with Gaila was of a professional nature. Please excuse my misapprehension.
!message failed! But it is. Professional, I mean
!message failed! It's only publicity stuff. All arranged. Just some red carpet thing and then coffee
No big deal.

 

Jim bites his lip as he re-reads the exchange a couple of times before he groans and flops back on his lumpy futon mattress. The way it came across, it sounds like Jim's saying he's dating Gaila, and brushing off Spock's stiff apology with a "no big deal". Talk about misapprehensions.

He bolts upright, still clutching his phone. He should really clear things up about the Gaila thing right now, so Spock gets how it really is.

But when he begins to compose a new text, he freezes. If he says he isn't dating Gaila hours and hours later, when it seemed like he had admitted it before, does that seem like backtracking? Obviously he and Gaila aren't going out. But he doesn't want Spock to think Jim is the kind of guy who gives multiple versions of what's really going on.

Then there's the issue of what Spock actually wants to know. If Jim messages him at 2AM that he's not dating Gaila -- maybe Spock is going to think that's seriously strange. After all, why would Spock, one of the best known male supermodels, care who Jim is dating or not? Spock probably meant that it was "inadvisable" as professional advice, like the way he had helped Jim out when they first met, explaining about insinuations and homoerotic stuff. Besides, Jim knows from Gaila that Spock refused the chance to play publicity escort for her. Maybe Spock sees stuff like that as bad career moves for anyone, and had simply wanted to tip Jim off with some helpful guidance.

That makes the most sense, Jim thinks miserably to himself as he turns off the lamp he has perched precariously on a milk crate beside his futon and pulls up his thin blanket to cover his head. Because why would a guy like Spock be interested in some nobody like Jim Kirk?