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Stellar Explosion

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The morning Jim is supposed to head out to the job with Spock, he messes with his hair so many times that he ends up running late.

After huffing and puffing up the five flights of stairs to the loft where he's been directed to go, he finds most everyone else has arrived ahead of him. Prominent in the crowd are a bunch of female models in harsh-looking make-up and severe hair styles, standing around in asymmetrical shiny short dresses, smoking and shivering next to the huge open window in the corner. Their outfits perfectly match the mood of the creepy atonal music filling the huge space.

Jim gets pounced on as soon as the assistants notice him, herded this way and that, so he doesn't have a moment to check whether Spock is on the scene.

It's not until he's been shoved into tight black leather jeans, an asymmetrical grey and black almost see-through striped top and nearly finished in the make-up chair that he happens to glance at the mirror. His heart beats faster as he spots Spock gliding silently behind him, not even looking Jim's way.

He probably just didn't notice him, Jim thinks uncomfortably.

Spock walks over to the set as though to examine it, and one of the female models immediately makes a beeline for him. If Jim strains, he can just catch a glimpse in the mirror of Spock looking absolutely uninterested as she chatters and flips her hair. Spock's got on black leather trousers too, and though they're less fitted than Jim's, they look like they were custom made for his strong form. For his top he has on a grey metallic looking sweater over a white clingy shirt, but though it drapes artfully in the front almost falling to mid-thigh, it stops abruptly mid-back. With the white undershirt's hem ending just where the leather trousers begin, it's a kind of spectacularly mind-blowing set up that highlights Spock's trim waist and seriously amazing ass.

"Baby, you have got to sit up straight," the woman trying to finish Jim's lip liner says irritably when he nearly falls out of the chair trying to get a better view of Spock.

"Sorry, sorry!" Jim forcibly jerks his eyes away and tries to hold still for her brushes and pencils.

By the time Jim is given the go-ahead to get up, Spock is standing alone. Seems none of the other models have tried to pull him into their conversations again. They're all looking a little wary, in fact, though Jim can't tell exactly why. Spock looks pretty much as blank as always -- though now that Jim looks closer, there's a kind of tension in his lean frame. Apparently even Spock can have bad days, Jim thinks with a strange sort of relief. It makes the other guy seem like he could be half human, at least. For some reason instead of putting Jim off, it makes approaching Spock appear easier. Still, he can't help but feel a little nervous about seeing Spock for what's only their second meeting.

"Spock, hey," Jim blurts out as he darts over. He tries to cover up his cringe at the completely uncool way he'd greeted Spock by clearing his throat. When Spock's gaze snaps to him and his eyes narrow, Jim flashes a smile and, damn his nervous tics, reaches up to run his fingers through his hair while he figures out what to say next. It's a habit he's never been able to kick, one his mom swears up and down was one of George Kirk's jittery customs as well ("He used to tug that hair of his straight up when he was trying to get the nerve to ask me out," she would tell Jim fondly while he groaned and covered his ears).

"Do not," Spock now says sharply, catching Jim's wrist.

The move brings Jim up short, and he inhales so quickly he feels a little dizzy.

"Huh?" he asks. Spock's fingers still curl around him, arresting Jim's movement mid-air and squeezing above his hand just hard enough that it's starting to ache.

"You have just emerged from hair and make-up sessions. Do not interfere with the work they have done to prepare you," Spock says stiffly.

Okay, fair enough. But it's a bizarre scolding as far as Jim is concerned. Spock definitely sounds pretty angry about it. Could be he's just really protective of the hair and make-up people. Or maybe there's something more to it.

"Fine, okay, I'll leave it alone," Jim says, rolling his eyes. He tries to yank his hand back, but Spock just holds on tighter.

"It seems to me you are not appropriately aware of when to 'leave things alone'," Spock says flatly.

Now Jim's starting to feel less confused and more annoyed. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Nothing more than the work we have ahead of us today, which your demeanor suggests you do not undertake with suitable gravity." Spock takes a step closer to Jim, a hint of derision in his dark eyes as he glowers.

And that is so not okay. No one can tell Jim he doesn't work damn hard at this modeling business. And Spock has no right to declare that Jim is slacking off, especially when it's based on zero evidence.

Besides, everyone else on the set is starting to notice. From the lighting guy to the girl setting out more fruit at the craft services table, they're subtly angling toward Jim and Spock and lowering their voices, all the while striving to seem they're still totally engrossed in their own conversations, of course. Talk about unprofessional; Jim doesn't get why Spock would want to ream him out in front of everyone at the shoot.

"What's up with you?" Jim asks in a whisper so they won't be as easily overheard. "Why are you upset with me?"

"I have no evident reason to experience anger at any of your recent actions," Spock bites out. At least he's lowered his own voice to match Jim's, and he's stepped in even closer. They've got him in a pair of boots with a slight heel, Jim realizes dimly as he has to look up more than usual to meet Spock's gaze.

"Obviously, you are misinterpreting the import of my current behavior toward you," Spock continues. "As I said, I am simply mindful of the need for focus today."

"Except you are mad at me for some reason," Jim says. He's on to something, he can tell; the words make Spock's fingers loosen just a bit as if he's faltering. So Jim shifts his wrist in Spock's hold, grabbing Spock's hand right back to make sure he's got his attention. They're nearly chest-to-chest now, and Jim can hear Spock's breathing become slightly labored even though they're standing still. "Why, though, I can't figure out, because it's not like we've even seen each other again until just now. So it's not like I could have done anything --"

Searching Spock's stern expression, Jim has a sudden epiphany. "Is this about Gaila?" He had felt pretty miserable when Spock misunderstood him because of his stupid phone not sending all his texts, and it did seem like Spock got kind of distant when they were chatting about it. But Jim didn't figure on Spock actually turning up angry the next time they worked together. He rushes to say, "Because, and I don't know why you care so much, it's not what you --"

"I do not care what you do," Spock says. His voice rises slightly in volume. In the hush of everyone eavesdropping while they're pretending not to notice, it sounds pretty loud. One of the make-up women actually gasps.

Without so much as looking around him, Spock seems to suddenly realize that he and Jim are the center of attention. And that, in Spock's move to arrest Jim's movements and hold his focus, and Jim's grab back at him, they're now more or less holding hands, just really, really aggressively.

He drops Jim's wrist abruptly, spins on his heel, and stalks to the other side of the set.

"Okay, people, we're going to get started," one of the PA's announces.

"Wow, what's going on with you and Spock?" one of the models asks at Jim's elbow. She looks like she's just gotten her hair cut to match the shoot's theme; her blond bangs slant across her face like she's from some early 80s music video. As she blinks curiously at him, all Jim can think is how Janice made him promise a zillion times never to get a haircut for a job or dye or pierce anything without checking with her first.

"Nothing," Jim says quickly. "Just two guys talking. Nothing at all, really."

"Didn't look like nothing from where I was standing," she says with a shrug, but she doesn't push any more after that.

Jim gets paired off with Carol, the model standing at his side, for the first few sets of poses. Before too long, Spock and a couple of the other female models are called on to join in, all of them switching places and trading off spots as they're directed.

The new photographer seems fine, but kind of boring. It makes Jim miss Bones and his grumbling. At least with Bones, Jim always gets a sense how he's doing. This shoot seems to be all about looking cold and expressionless, which isn't exactly Jim's specialty.

It is Spock's, though. Before too long he and one of the female models, Uhura, take center stage in the tableau.

"That's great, that's perfect," the photographer mumbles, but as far as Jim can tell the guy might as well be talking sarcastically about a boring sandwich he's being served for lunch for all the enthusiasm he musters.

"Let's get some contrast going," the photographer says softly. One of the assistants calls out, "That means Carol and Jim -- move just upstage of Spock and Uhura, okay?"

Jim totally gets why the differences in the sets of models might look aesthetically appealing. Uhura, tall and gorgeous with her beautiful dark skin and long black hair, looks amazing when she takes a counterpart pose to Spock, her expression defiant and determined. And though Spock himself is pale as all get-out, his own dark hair and serious appearance right now make him a terrific match for Uhura. As for Jim, he couldn't be any more corn-fed, blond, and blue-eyed if he tried, and that's a nice complement to Carol's own fair looks. With Jim and Carol positioned just above Spock and Uhura on the platforms, it's bound to look like an eye-catching scene.

So Jim completely understands the matching up. What he doesn't get is why he should feel a surge of annoyance and jealousy whenever he sees Spock incline even slightly toward Uhura or watches Uhura tilt her hips toward Spock.

All of this is only a job, after all, Jim reminds himself as he stares so hard at Spock's weird half-backed sweater that his vision starts to blur. Just because Jim and Spock had met on a shoot like this, when Spock brushed up against Jim's torso and ran his fingertips along Jim's hips, supporting him when Jim leaned back into him and breathing deeply like he couldn't get enough of Jim's scent -- well. It doesn't mean Spock and Uhura are going to suddenly start exchanging ambiguous texts and scowling at each other the next time they meet.

Because he's getting so tightly coiled inside at the thought that something might be up between Spock and Uhura, though, it takes some time for Jim to notice that the two of them never actually touch. It looks like Spock's back to his demands about not making direct contact with the other models; if the woman who mentioned it to Jim that first job was right, he's actually got that in his contract. For some reason, things are different when he's with Jim, though -- not only when they had that first job together, but just before today's shoot got started. It makes Jim feel a little excited and a little miserable at the same time. Because there's no denying he and Spock have a nearly tangible spark between them, but what if the chance for something more between them is already ruined?

Jim shifts next to Carol when the photographer calls for it and tries to focus. He's got to keep all the confusion with Spock out of his head for the moment. After all, he and Spock barely know each other -- one session of modelling, a little texting, and that's about it. Jim has no right to feel invested in whatever Spock does. But still, he can't help feel a little relieved -- nah, it's not just that. He's got to be honest with himself: he feels fiercely glad Spock never lays a hand on Uhura as the shoot continues.

"Jim, below Spock, just there," the photographer says almost as if to himself. At the impatient wave from one of the PA's signaling for him to move forward, Jim slides away from Carol to comply.

"You want me to stand here, or sit, or --" Jim gestures to the multi-level platform and then the ground, wondering if the photographer wants him to lounge on one of the steps or stretch out on the floor.

"Certainly whichever option you choose, you should not attack anyone else on the set, or grapple with your colleagues during the course of our work," Spock says quietly from behind Jim.

Jim freezes. "Um --"

"Sprawl on the second-lowest step, Jim," the photographer murmurs, appearing not to notice the tension that's ratcheted up to top levels all around them.

"Sure thing," Jim says under his breath. He starts to get into position.

"Additionally, there will be no need to remove any of your garments as of yet," Spock says in a soft tone just as Jim's gotten himself settled.

"The hell did you just say to me?" Jim asks furiously. He's still looking at the camera, but he's just barely able to maintain his concentration on his work. Spock's words echo in his head and make his skin heat; he's seconds away from whipping around to confront Spock straight on.

"Can we please just keep working?" Uhura asks no one in particular. She sounds exasperated and long-suffering, and it strikes Jim that she actually seems like she's not enjoying working with Spock very much. And that's crazy, because even if Spock is acting like a huge jerk to Jim today, Jim knows it's a privilege to stand by Spock's side.

Uhura's impatience is not enough to distract Jim from the last couple of things Spock said, though. However the hell Spock found out about what went down on the set at the NoHo Threads shoot, obviously he's peeved about it. The memory of all that stuff Spock said at the start of their session today about "suitable gravity" and maintaining focus feels even more awful, knowing exactly what context Spock meant.

And that burns, because again, Spock's got no right to criticize the way Jim works. So even as Jim follows directions and slides into a different half-reclining position on the designated step, he can't resist taking a break in the action to say, "Wow, Spock, guess you didn't like hearing about the way my shoot with Gary went. Not professional enough for you, I'm betting. Gee, the photographer and the actual designer seemed to like it. You probably know best, though!"

"Just because a certain lecherous element finds such hackneyed, sloppy, and puppyish comportment appealing does not mean it should be undertaken by someone who truly cares about the quality of his work," Spock says stiffly.

"Puppyish?" Jim asks, his voice rising.

"That's the one bugging you?" Uhura asks disbelievingly.

"Good," the photographer says in a vague voice. He beckons to one of his assistants, who hurries over so they can switch lenses on the camera. His eyes are almost totally fixed on Spock and Jim, though, and Jim would bet it isn't only about the images he's capturing. Even though people on the set are all hurrying to do their designated tasks, they keep sneaking glances at Spock and Jim more than the other models, clearly speculating about what the hell they're arguing about.

"Why don't you guys save this conversation for later?" Uhura asks through her teeth.

"Why don't you just cut to the chase, and say you think my work is crap?" Jim demands of Spock even though he keeps his eyes firmly fixed forward.

"I would never deliberately denigrate the performance of a peer by classifying it as excrement," Spock intones. He sounds almost unconcerned, but Jim can tell from Uhura's annoyed sigh that Spock's definitely letting his frustration bleed through as they keep posing. In the middle of his own indignation, Jim does feel a flash of sympathy for her; it can't be fun to be in the middle of all this mess.

"Hey, just because it wasn't your type of scene doesn't mean that the work I did yesterday was lousy," Jim shoots back. He's starting to feel seriously miffed now. Yesterday's job was annoying on all kinds of levels, but he'd thrown himself into his work, and he'd done his best. And to hear Spock just dismiss it as terrible junk grates at him.

"First you don't like it when I hang out with Gaila -- and by the way, that was totally a publicity thing, 100% nothing personal between the two of us at any time, not that I know why I'm bothering to tell you that," Jim grits out. He's half-rising on his elbows and glaring at the camera, and from the soft pleased sounds the photographer is making, that's apparently a good thing.

"Your initial responses regarding those interactions seemed to indicate otherwise," Spock notes coldly from behind him. "I wonder that your story has shifted now, and to what ends."

"Oh yeah?" Jim half-turns so he can turn his glare on Spock instead of the camera. "Well, maybe you assumed too much about what I was indicating instead of straight out asking what was really up. Obviously you do care what it is I'm doing, or you wouldn't be so bent out of shape right now!"

"I am in no way, as you claim, bent out of shape," Spock practically spits out.

That's it. Jim angles himself so he can look Spock in the face at last, and their eyes meet.

Suddenly he's locked in place, caught up in Spock's gaze and unable to tear his own eyes away.

Spock stands over him, glowering at Jim, all that laser-sharp focus on him as if Jim is the only other one in the room.

It feels like it's just the two of them to Jim, too, and not only because of the way they're hyper-focused on each other. Now that Jim glances around, it registers in the back of his mind that Carol must have wandered off at some point. And Uhura has stepped aside with her arms crossed over her chest, obviously at the end of her tether. She's already looking off set, shaking her head at one of the make-up artists as if she can't wait to escape.

Meanwhile, Spock hovers above Jim, his expression intimidating and his tense pose making him appear more than a little dangerous.

If all the wrestling with Gary yesterday had been flirty and playful up until Gary's gross assumptions, this positioning with Spock kind of makes it seem like Spock wants to slam Jim against something hard, maybe even wrap his hands around his neck and squeeze. And the weirdest part of all? Is that something in Jim actually wants Spock to try it.

Distantly, Jim can hear the camera clicking away like crazy, shot after shot of the scene he and Spock are staging.

"Uhura, step all the way off to the side," the photographer says quietly. From Uhura's huff, she completely gets why.

"So it's starting to sound to me like you're jealous," Jim says softly. He leans back a little on his elbows and crosses his ankles as though he's just totally relaxed, keeping his face turned up to Spock's. Though Jim barely gets what it is he's trying to do, he can feel something thrumming in his body that tells him, yeah, like that, keep it up. It's as though part of him knows exactly how to play it, like he's baiting a hook to reel Spock in.

Sure enough, Spock leans toward him, moving forward and suspended over Jim as though he's about to descend.

For a second, that magazine photograph of Spock Jim saw a few nights ago flashes into Jim's mind again -- the one with Spock crouched down, all that predatory drive about to be unleashed. The feel is the same now but even stronger, so palpable that Jim can practically taste what Spock's holding back, like a storm brewing and ready to burst.

"You are speaking irrationally," Spock breathes. He actually steps over Jim, feet astride Jim's hips as he stares at him. If he were to crouch down, he'd be straddling Jim's groin.

The photographer murmurs something and his assistants scramble to keep up, shifting the focus to get the best shot of the action.

Spock looks almost too worked up to speak properly, but a second later he continues, "I am in no way...jealous of your work on such a campaign. Nor am I envious of your imprudent interactions with other models."

"I didn't say you were jealous of the gig I got," Jim tells him. He smiles up at Spock crookedly and leans back just a little more, feeling his shirt ride up and start to show the strip of skin above his button fly. "Nope, I think it's something else. I wonder what it could be, hmm? Maybe you kind of wish you were the one rolling around on the floor with me yesterday instead of Gary. Huh? How about it, Spock?" He lowers his voice just a little more and wets his lips before he stretches and lets his hips roll up slightly. "Want to get a little unprofessional?"

For a moment there's such fury and fire in Spock's eyes that Jim is completely entranced. Spock twitches forward, and even though his overall expression doesn't change much, Jim can tell this ranks super high on the Spock level of intensity scale. It's no longer just that Spock's forgotten about every single person in the room but Jim; it's like Spock can't remember there's anyone else on the planet or even in the galaxy aside from the two of them.

Hell, Jim's barely remembering where he even is at this point, and he's not exactly jumping to lay down odds he could even tell someone his full name right this second if they asked. All he can see and think about is Spock.

Spock, breathing hard, looming over Jim, appears like he's ready to do just what Jim suggested. Not that Jim himself totally knows what exactly he wants to happen. But he's so upset at Spock's insinuations that he wants to drag any kind of reaction out of him, right here, right now.

"That's a wrap," the photographer says in an offhand way, and "That's a wrap!" several of the assistants call out in turn, echoing him.

Spock jerks back as though he's been struck. For a moment he looks as if he's ready to stride off again; he backs off Jim several paces and stands poised to flee. But mid-turn he pauses to give Jim one last look. "I find you compromise my control," Spock says. It's almost a growl.

Jim stills, unsure how to respond. But Spock isn't moving off just yet, and Jim can't resist pushing a little more. "I think maybe you like it when I compromise your control," he snaps back.

"You are wrong," Spock says softly. And this time he really does turn away and leave Jim lying there alone.