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Stellar Explosion

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Jim Kirk absolutely does not mope.

So when after that tense gig with Spock his schedule dries up for a couple of days, he stays home, sure. But he isn't sulking or anything, despite what Sulu keeps suggesting every time he spots Jim lingering at their tiny rickety kitchen table over cooling cups of coffee or flopped on his futon with all the covers piled atop him. He's just low on cash at the moment until his paycheck deposits, a bit at ends since he doesn't have any jobs on the docket, and taking advantage of the spare time. And if he uses that spare time to spend lots of listless hours online, well, that's his own damn business.

Besides, it's better than rechecking his phone every half hour to see if Spock has texted him, that's for sure. He's just not totally positive whether he needs a new battery or something, so it makes sense to stare at the screen every so often. Once an hour is completely reasonable.

Even Scotty has been on Jim's case, even though most of the time Scotty is too wrapped up in his photography junk to notice what Jim's up to. It's Scotty's plan B to get behind the camera when the modeling pans out, he often tells Jim cheerfully. Though from how much Scotty seems to dig messing with lenses and lights, Jim suspects that photography might be his roommate's true calling. But for now Scotty seems to have combined his old favorite hobby with a new one -- bugging Jim to get out of the apartment and, "Get some fresh air, laddie, for fuck's sake!"

Of course Jim didn't tell either Scotty or Sulu exactly what took place between himself and Spock. He's not crazy enough to let himself in for Sulu's arch gossip or Scotty's overbearingly earnest inquiries. But between the two of them, and maybe from Sulu's contacts among the other models who were at the shoot, they seem to have pieced together that something went down.

So he's been dodging Sulu's invites to check out this or that hot bar, and Scotty's entreaties to head to their neighborhood park to do some posing so Scotty can get more practice doing outdoor shots. It's not like he has to hang out with his roommates if he doesn't want to, after all. It's got absolutely nothing to do with wanting to avoid the topic of All Things Spock.

"All right, that's it," Sulu finally says one night, slapping his hands together and rubbing them briskly. "This is getting seriously depressing. We're taking you out."

"What? No," Jim disagrees from the corner of their tiny living room where he's hunched over Scotty's laptop, mainlining all the episodes of some stupid dramatic vampire show. He can barely keep track of the plot or work out who's biting who for ten minutes altogether, but it's better to watch it than just glare at the walls. "I don't want to go anywhere. It's too late, anyway."

"Oh my god, it's only ten! Nothing even starts until eleven," Sulu corrects him before he whips out his phone and starts texting, sending out feelers to figure out where he's headed. Jim learned right after he moved in that Sulu always has the lowdown on the best stuff going on. He's like a climbing plant that reaches his tendrils into every corner for all the most coveted info.

"Anyway, you're coming," Sulu adds as his phone starts to ping back with multiple replies.

"You ought to come along, that's for certain," Scotty shouts out from the bathroom where he's doing complicated things to his hair. "After all, it is a mite gloomy, seeing you all droopy and sad these days."

"Great," Jim mutters. "Listen," he says in a louder voice infused with forced cheer. "It's swell that the two of you are taking an interest and all, but I'm totally fine. So you can head out to your --"

"Completely VIP restricted-access just-opened totally hot dance club where people who've got tons of cash are going to buy us drinks all night long," Sulu supplies helpfully, waving his phone at Jim.

"Yeah. That. You two should definitely go." And leave me here to not-sulk, he thinks mulishly.

Scotty bounds into the room to stand beside Sulu, who's frowning at Jim, his arms crossed in exasperation. At least Scotty looks friendly, even if he's going to join forces with Sulu to strong-arm Jim into doing something he absolutely doesn't want to.

"I don't think we should leave you here all alone," Scotty announces. "It's no good for you to hang about like this."

"See? So you're going. And that's final," Sulu tells Jim sternly. He turns to Scotty and says, "I'll get this" -- with a disparaging wave at Jim's bedhead, "into some kind of shape."

"Oh! And I've got some new designer duds for him, just the thing, get him out of that, er --" Scotty pauses and looks dubiously at Jim's ratty plaid pajama pants and torn Riverside Rangers t-shirt. "That outfit," he says diplomatically before bolting in the direction of his small bedroom.

"This is good; you'll see," Sulu puts in. He catches sight of himself in one of the small mirrors on the wall and gets momentarily distracted, smoothing his own styled hair with such a determined air that it looks like he's gearing up for some weirdly sophisticated hand-to-hand combat.

For a brief moment, Jim actually considers trying to crawl off to his bedroom to hide while Sulu's absorbed in his own reflection. But a moment later he narrows his eyes in the mirror at Jim, who's started to feint right, and dives for Jim's head. He's already brandishing a comb and some kind of product that smells like a combination of leather and whiskey. "You just need to get back up on that horse," he comments as he scoops out some of the cream.

"I don't think I ever got on the dumb horse in the first place," Jim says under his breath while Sulu tugs his hair in various directions and efficiently works in the styling product. And the vision that springs into his head of him climbing atop Spock -- yeah, no, he really does not need to imagine that right now.

"Well then, get on that horse, man," Sulu advises as he backs up to survey his handiwork.

Jim huffs a breath of annoyance while Sulu brandishes another mirror at him so he can see how his hair turned out. Fine, so maybe he is a little stuck on the Spock subject. It's just that he thought that even if the two of them were really angry at each other, Spock would still text him with some stern admonishment or a recondite message for Jim to scowl at and puzzle over. The total radio silence is driving him nuts.

"Don't make that sound at your hair," Sulu says, obviously offended Jim hasn't fallen all over himself exclaiming about what a great job he did. "And quit frowning when you don't have to do it for the camera. It makes you wrinkle."

"That's right! Show us a smile," Scotty says briskly, returning to the room with an armful of clothing before he begins to yank Jim to his feet. "Plenty of other men out there. Or lovely lasses, if that's what you're hankering after for this go."

"Ugh, why won't you both leave me alone?" Jim asks, trying to go limp so Scotty will give up already. But Scotty is stupidly strong despite looking small and wiry, and easily hefts him to a standing position.

"Because we don't want you to haunt the apartment like a spooky blond ghost anymore," Sulu puts in, his nose wrinkling at the idea. "It's in our best interests, believe me." He shoots off a few more texts to friends while he keeps up the commentary. "There's a whole city of people out there who aren't Spock, so let's go find you one. Or a couple of them, whatever; I'm not judging."

"Gee, thanks a lot," Jim replies sarcastically, though he has to say it through the fashionable clingy long-sleeved t-shirt Scotty has just lobbed at his head. "I'm so glad you're not judging my choices, like my decision to stay home and be left alone."

"That's the spirit," Scotty exclaims. "Now, put that on." He flings another garment, this one a pair of jeans, Jim's way.

When they look at him expectantly, Jim makes an exasperated noise and gives in, heading to his room to change.

"Like you couldn't have just put that on out here," Sulu calls after him impatiently.

"That's fine, that's fine," Scotty placates his friend. "He'll get kitted out and we'll be on our way. Then we'll all have a few drinks and get him fixed up in no time."

"I don't need to be fixed," Jim reminds them even as he sheds his lounging-around outfit and struggles into the tight jeans.

There's diplomatic silence from the other room at that pronouncement, so Jim sighs and gets on with it.

 

**********

 

"Awesome, right? Here, try this other one," Sulu shouts over the thumping beat of the music as he presses yet another drink into Jim's hands. It's fruity and dark pink and Jim has absolutely no idea how Sulu got a hold of it because he's been standing right next to Jim for the past fifteen minutes.

Oh, yeah, he realizes as he sees a man at the bar raise a glass in Sulu's direction; pretty much how Sulu has been getting them all free drinks the entire night: by just being Hikaru Sulu.

"You're not even going to go talk to him," Jim points out when Sulu grins at the man for a mere second and makes a "drink up!" gesture at Jim.

"Hey, if he or anyone else wants to pay for my drinks, that's his decision," Sulu says cheerfully.

"Jeez, you don't even like guys."

"Since when did that make it wrong to accept the kindness of strangers?" Sulu asks. He's already scanning the crowd again to see who has arrived on the dance floor in the past few moments. "He wants to buy people drinks; I want to drink. It's a completely reciprocal arrangement. And those people out there," he adds, "want me to dance with them, and I want to dance, so --" He glances over to see Jim hasn't even started on his cocktail and sighs noisily. "Bottoms up -- let's go already."

"You can go ahead. I'll be fine, I promise," Jim protests when Sulu looks conflicted at his prospects.

"Just do not leave this club, okay?" Sulu points at Jim as he begins backing toward the dancers. He's already ditched his own nearly full pink drink on the small table next to Jim. "At least not until I find out about a good after-party so we can all head there together."

Jim doesn't even have to make a noncommittal sound at that, because Sulu's already grooved away from him.

So he tries to look casual and not catch anyone's glance for too long; he's already had to wave off a couple of people who approached him earlier. Even now, a girl on the other side of the room keeps leaning away from her group of friends so she can catch Jim's eye, tossing her hair and smiling at him brightly. And a man seated at a table in what Sulu had called "the ultra-ultra-VIP section keeps regarding Jim coolly as he sips his drink, like he's trying to decide if he wants to make a bid or something.

He's not big on the idea of meeting someone new right now, at least not for anything serious. But maybe it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world to get out there and dance for a little while. At the very least, coming out tonight has given his mind something else to focus on aside from Spock.

Of course thinking about not thinking about Spock? Just makes Jim think about Spock.

Jim takes a swig of the drink finally, making a face at the strong pomegranate taste. He'll get over Spock eventually, he decides as he takes another sip despite the syrupy flavor. It's just that Jim hasn't met anyone he's connected with so intensely before -- not here in the city, not back in Iowa, not ever. And though he kind of thinks that's amazing, maybe it's not such a good thing after all. After all, if Spock doesn't like how the two of them are drawn to each other, maybe Jim should try to quit liking it too.

Just then he spots a man on the dance floor, his body swaying in careful sinuous moves, far more elegant than the people grinding around him. Jim's heart speeds up at the sight of dark sleek hair, broad shoulders, a slim but strong frame -- and then he has to choke down his disappointment when the guy pivots to show his face and turns out to be no one Jim's seen before.

Obsessing over something that's just not going to happen isn't too healthy, Jim thinks miserably. He takes a deep breath and finishes off the drink. A quick glance at the throng moving to the music reveals Sulu's already been swallowed up in the crowd, so Jim shrugs and starts in on the cocktail Sulu left behind as well.

This time when the girl across the room shoots Jim another coy look, he musters his courage and smiles at her. She laughs, obviously pleased at having the attention returned, and begins to make her way across the dance floor.

Sulu and Scotty are right; it was good he came out tonight, Jim thinks as he touches his hair carefully (it really does look a ton better now after Sulu went at it). He should totally tell them, except he's not sure where they've gone off to, and he's feeling a little fuzzy-headed from the alcohol anyway.

He's watching the girl's progress on her way to him as she stumbles into a group and laughingly apologizes when he hears someone much closer by exclaim, "Jimmy!"

"Gaila," he says in surprise when she shimmies up to him in a bright green sparkly dress.

"Awww, why didn't you text me you were headed out tonight?" she complains, slapping at his arm playfully when she reaches his side. Her outfit is clinging to her like a second shimmering alien but alluring skin. "We could have, like, staged a whole scene at a different bar and then come here looking like we were breaking up! Just think, angrily striding past the bouncer together! Dancing with other people all night! Heatedly exchanging furious words! Maybe I'd even throw a drink in your face." She sighs sadly at the missed opportunity.

"Um. When were we going out?" Jim asks, utterly confused as he so often is with Gaila.

"Never, you silly goose," she laughs. "But it's good press, you know, doing the whole nightlife break-up. My publicist always says it starts trending, like, right away."

It's then that the girl who's been making her way over to Jim sidles up to them. She darts a quick glance at Gaila before turning her megawatt grin on Jim. "Hey. You want to dance up on me?" she coos.

But when she reaches out to place her palm on Jim's chest, Gaila laughs and bats it away. "Oh, honey, no. No," she says sympathetically, waving her off.

The girl flushes a bright red but moves off immediately.

"Hey," Jim protests without much heat. His thinking is still a bit clouded, but he can't really find it in him to get too upset about Gaila dismissing his potential dance partner.

"Come on, let's get a table, let the really interesting prospects come to us." Gaila takes his arm and ushers him toward what looks like another cordoned off section in a prime spot for watching the dancers.

The crowd parts for her like she's royalty, though they have no problem elbowing Jim or stepping on his feet if he happens to tread into whatever space they're flinging themselves around in.

"Oooh, what is that?" she demands as soon as they're seated, somehow swooping the drink Jim forgot he was holding from his hand without spilling a drop. "Oh my god, these are crazy dangerous!" she exclaims after sampling it. "Are you kidding with these? They go straight to your head! Don't let me have another sip of it!"

"Uh," Jim says, not sure whether to reach for the glass or not as Gaila takes several more elegant mouthfuls in quick succession.

"Anyway," she says a minute later when she's emptied Jim's drink and handed it off to someone Jim is pretty sure doesn't actually work here (the guy scowls at them but stalks away, Gaila's empty glass in hand). "Why were you standing there all alone, looking so grumpy?"

He takes a deep breath, ready to tell her, no, he was just hanging out enjoying the scene, he's great, what's she even talking about? But when he opens his lips, somehow the whole story spills out -- meeting Spock, the texting gone wrong, all the misunderstandings, Spock's clear disdain for Jim the last time they worked together.

Gaila nods and winces in all the right places, patting his hand when he's finished.

"And nothing even happened with you and Gary," she said, shaking her head when Jim confirms this. "Too bad. He's fucking hot even if he is a conceited asshole ten times over. Do you know, he came in to read for a tiny role in a film I'm trying to get produced, and the entire audition, he kept acting like he was doing all of us a favor?" She scoffs and accepts a drink from a waiter that someone has clearly sent over for her. A second beverage gets handed to Jim as well before she can even continue, and he sips it absently.

"So I think you dodged a bullet there," she confides. "Though to tell you the truth, if I could get him to shut up for long enough and he actually could get it up for women, I would climb that like a tree, I swear to god."

"I guess?" Jim says, feeling dazed. "Wait, do you mean with Spock or Gary?"

"Exactly. Let me see those texts," she says, switching tracks rapidly and taking Jim's phone from his clumsy fingers in a nimble grab. "Aww, you can tell right off it was all a mistake!" she exclaims as she scans the feed of Jim's conversation with Spock. "And he was jealous of me? My goodness, he's been in the business long enough to know how these things work. Every paparazzi photo of us was so obviously staged."

"I should have just shown my phone to Spock when I saw him, I guess," Jim mutters, running his fingers through his hair and probably ruining Sulu's careful work. "But I think he was actually way more bugged about the stuff with Gary than with you. The last time I saw him, he kept basically saying I'm crap at my job because of it."

"That figures." She sits back on the padded bench, clutching Jim's phone to her chest thoughtfully. "Just, you know you're obviously not crap at modeling. Sweetie, you're a natural. I mean, when I saw you leaning on the wall, all pouty and emotive? Even right now I can barely keep my eyes off you, you're so biteable. And you and Spock? Together?" She waved her hand at her face, fanning herself. "He's so handsome and built, but all cold and cerebral. And you're all pretty but masculine, with those arms and eyes and lips. The two of you together?" She makes a pah-chewww exploding sound accompanied by flicked-out spangled manicured fingers.

Before Jim can object that he doesn't especially want Gaila to spend the night talking about how hot Spock is, her gaze sharpens and she leans in. "Hey, you know what? I bet when you get him all worked up, he'll be an absolute tiger in the sack. All that unstoppable, passionate, 1000% focus on you, you know what I mean? Like he could totally wreck you if he wanted, but he'd definitely be careful with you, just barely keeping that intensity banked up." She takes a contemplative swallow of her drink and adds, "Unless you told him to go ahead and give it to you hard. Which, let's face it, you absolutely should."

"Gaila, oh my god," Jim says, though he's grinning sheepishly instead of protesting too much. It's not like those kinds of thoughts haven't crossed his mind too. Hell, every time Jim thinks about the way Spock had looked at him just before their last shoot ended, his brain can't help but spin the situation out from there to Spock blanketing Jim's body with his, holding his wrists against the ground just tight enough that Jim can't move them, lowering his head to capture Jim's mouth in a ravenous kiss --

"Where are you right now?" Gaila laughs even as she wriggles her fingers in front of Jim's face to regain his attention.

Jim flushes and tries to focus. "Just, I got distracted for a second. I'm fine; I'm listening."

She nods, leaning back in a graceful recline that shows off her shapely legs. That Jim is so hung up on thinking about Spock that he barely notices this is probably pretty telling.

"So maybe it's not about correcting those misapprehensions," Gaila suggests. "No, I think it's time for you to employ some other tactics."

"Don't you get it?" Jim asks her, forcing himself to keep his voice level. "Spock isn't interested. No matter what I do, he's not going to want to see me unless he absolutely has to."

"Don't be so sure," she says, glancing over his shoulder. "Listen, darling, I just think maybe you need to have a little fun tonight, take your mind off things."

"This guy? He is literally incapable of having fun," Sulu observes as he joins them at the exclusive table. He grabs Jim in a clap-on-the-shoulder hug a second later, Sulu-speak for letting Jim know he's only teasing. "But thanks for keeping an eye on him and doing your best to fun him up. I'm Hikaru Sulu."

"Fun him up," Gaila repeats, so delighted that she claps her hands. "That's totally what I'm best at! And I know you; we were at the same party last week, the rooftop one with the awful band."

"Which rooftop one with the awful band?" he asks her, and they both laugh uproariously like that's the most hilarious thing ever. "By the way, I love everything you've got going on tonight," Sulu tells Gaila a second later, gesturing at her dress.

"I am not," Jim interrupts to object to the idea that he's no fun. When they look vaguely confused he realizes he might just be a little behind on the conversational track. But it's not his fault if his brain isn't firing on all cylinders at the moment. It's hot, it's loud, and he's starting to realize he's got far too much alcohol firing through his system.

"You're not what?" Sulu asks, his eyebrows raised.

"I'm plenty fun," Jim tells him firmly.

"Well then, if you're so super fun, why don't you head out there and dance a little?" Gaila asks.

"Uh, because you scared away the girl who wanted to dance with me?" Jim asks her incredulously.

"Oh, hush; plenty of people are going to want to get their hands all over you. Besides, why would you dance with her, when you could dance with that?" Gaila takes Jim's chin in her hand gently, turning his head until he can see Gary Mitchell grinding out on the dance floor with a flurry of gorgeous people trying to get his attention.

"Yeah, I don't know," Jim laughs nervously. "I kind of had to tell him to back off, remember? Probably not the best idea to head over there."

"No, no, it'll be fun," Gaila urges him. "You don't have to do anything you don't want. Just go shake your thing for a while! Come on; he's pretty! It'll take your mind off everything."

Jim turns doubtfully to Sulu to ask his opinion, but Sulu's already leaning in close to get Gaila's attention again. So he glances back out at the dance floor just when Gary happens to look his way. As he spots Jim, he gives him a lazy self-assured grin, beckoning him out to join him.

Neither Gaila nor Sulu are paying Jim any more attention; their heads are tipping together conspiratorially as they laugh about something. So Jim shrugs and goes with it, fumbling his drink down onto a table without spilling it too much before he stumbles out to the dance floor and Gary.