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Stellar Explosion

Chapter Text

The rest of the shoot passes by in a daze.

After Jim and Spock's chess game winds down, M'Benga and his assistants wave them both off the set while they rearrange some of the furniture and props. Soon after, they're ready to take individual shots, so Jim tries to focus on M'Benga's directions, or alternately, tries not to stare a little too obviously at Spock's steely expression and fiery eyes while Spock poses.

Near the end of the gig, they're instructed to take up a series of positions near each other: each standing erect and confrontational with crossed arms at opposite ends of a console table; in front of a huge chest of drawers, some of them opened with various expensive clothing items spilling carelessly out, while Spock pulls on leather gloves and Jim shoulders off a silk robe; with Spock behind an imposing desk, long legs stretched out as he regards the camera impassively, while Jim sprawls on the thick rug before the desk, half-twisted toward the viewer with a challenging expression as if he's about to rise up and stalk forward.

By the time one of the photography minions complains they're soon going to be losing the light, Jim's shivering slightly. The sunlight streaming in the big space has been enough to keep him warm until now. Well, that and the heat in Spock's expression whenever they catch each other's gaze; his dark eyes make something warm unfurl in Jim's belly. But it's getting gloomier outside moment by moment.

At one point while M'Benga and a guy working with the lights consult with each other, Jim hugs his arms around his chest tightly, trying to keep from getting all goose-bumpy. Out of the corner of his eye he sees one of the wardrobe assistants making her way over to him with the long terry robe he had on earlier, and he gives her a small smile. At least wearing that cover-up will help stop some of the draft from chilling him through.

But Spock gets to Jim faster.

"Thanks," Jim says in confusion when he finds Spock offering him the long overcoat Spock wore for a few of his shots alone. "But I think we're almost done, so you don't need to --"

"It would please me to see you adequately attired for the current temperature," Spock begins.

"Ugh, no, don't put the Belstaff coat on," the wardrobe assistant calls out in dismay to Jim, hustling over faster. "You'll get make-up all over it."

Before Jim can start making placating noises and formulate an apology, Spock whirls to face the assistant, leveling a warning stare her way. She looks at him aghast for a second before she huffs and stalks off muttering, "The dry-cleaning bill if I can't blot out those smears of base coat, oh my god! Anne-Marie is going to be so pissed."

Jim opens his mouth to insist that he's fine and make one last appeal on behalf of the coat's pale blue silk lining, which does look pretty freaking expensive. But Spock holds the coat out wordlessly, his eyes full of concern and something a little darker, almost covetous.

It makes Jim's mouth go dry, and he has to swallow twice before he can speak. "Looks like you get your way," he murmurs as he lets Spock drape the material over his shoulders.

Spock has no direct reply, but his eyes gleam, and his demeanor suggests a smug cat that's just gotten his hard-won cream. His long warm fingers trail slightly over Jim's bare collarbone as he smooths the fabric before slowly letting go.

Jim shivers again, but this time, it's for a totally different reason.

It turns out M'Benga likes the look, though, of Jim in just the coat with only the boxer briefs on underneath. So while the wardrobe people try not to grumble too loudly, they do a few snapshots of that ensemble with Jim standing alone. Spock waits silently to the side, his eyes on Jim the entire time, proprietary and promising.

"Okay, great. That's it. Thanks, everyone," M'Benga says simply a short while later. He heads over to shake Jim's hand. To Jim's surprise, because he knows Spock isn't down with touching people generally, Spock readily clasps M'Benga's hand when it is offered to him. He actually even murmurs to him for a few moments before the photographer moves away.

"You guys are friends?" Jim asks curiously. It's sort of funny, Jim and Spock each having a photographer pal in the background somewhere.

"He is quite skilled at his work. Additionally, his demeanor is one that I find appealing," Spock answers in that calm way of his.

There's a second where Jim nearly feels a little jealous. Someone like M'Benga, himself level-headed and calm, seems like a way better match for Spock personality-wise than Jim does. And yet it's hard to envy Spock's attention to someone else when Spock keeps looking at Jim like Jim hung the moon and all of the stars besides.

But that doesn't mean Jim doesn't feel butterflies in his stomach, thinking about what's going to happen between him and Spock now that the shoot is over. As he gets make-up swiped off his shoulders with weird moist lemon verbena scented cloths and finally locates his street clothes shunted to the side (though he's told he can keep the soft grey boxer briefs, which, hey, bonus), Jim hustles through the post-shoot routine as quickly as he can in hopes of catching Spock around afterward.

Turns out he needn't have worried. Because Spock's calmly waiting for Jim by the exit, where the various people who worked on the shoot are grouped chattering and grimacing before they take their turns hurrying out to the street. The ancient metal entrance creaks open and bangs shut quickly, but the rush of wind and the sound of pounding rain washes over those few still dithering inside.

"Must be that huge storm that's supposed to dump tons of rain on us," M'Benga says as he adjusts the strap of a large shoulder bag filled with lenses and film. He's one of the last to leave, after most everyone else has cleared out the big equipment. With a last nod goodbye for Jim and Spock, he strolls outside, seemingly unperturbed by the onslaught of terrible weather.

"Guess we should make a break for the subway --"

"I would prefer if you engaged a taxi cab --"

"Wait, you first," Jim says with a lopsided grin.

"I must insist that you continue," Spock tells him. Jim just grins harder, it's so stupidly gallant.

"Will the both of you just hurry up?" a skinny guy with a fashionably intricate beard and thick plastic folders under his plaid-jacketed arms tells them irritably. "I can't close up the location until everyone is off the set."

"Sheesh," Jim mouths to Spock, who raises an eyebrow.

"It would appear there is a break in the inclement weather, at any rate," Spock acknowledges, opening the door and gesturing for Jim to go first.

"Oh, yeah, it's not so bad," Jim starts to say when they hit the pavement. It's a little chilly, sure, and the road and sidewalks are damp. But there's a sweet scent in the air despite the light industrial area where they're located. They're not close enough to Prospect Park or any other patches of green space the app on Jim's phone would show him if he looked. Maybe there's a community garden somewhere nearby, wafting nicer smells over the usual underlying city stenches of exhaust and garbage.

Jim turns his face up to the still dark clouds looming above them and takes a deep breath.

Of course that's when the sky opens up again.

"Later," bearded guy calls over his shoulder, bolting off in the direction of the nearest subway station. He's got some kind of plastic sheet over him like a cape, protecting his clothes and his messenger bag; at least he could have shared, Jim thinks sourly.

"Great," Jim mutters as he feels the water truly start to drench him. He'd try to cram himself in the doorway to avoid the barrage of raindrops, but it's little more than a one-step stoop with almost zero overhang. All the buildings nearby look the same, made-over warehouses or buildings still used as storerooms, so there's nowhere like a coffee shop or a bodega super close by to offer a break from the weather.

All in all, it's not the ideal setting for Jim to introduce the idea that he and Spock have to hang out again really soon. There's nowhere to get dry and linger, and exactly zero cabs have sped down the street since they got outside. He can't exactly marshal all his best arguments for why Spock should definitely agree to date him at the moment, not when all Jim can think about is getting out of this miserable downpour as soon as possible.

"We should probably run for it. It's that way, right? I mean, if we're both catching the F train. Not sure where you're off to, but I'm going all the way back --"

Jim trails off, because Spock is watching him intently, as if there wasn't rain plastering down his smooth dark hair and turning his overcoat from its fashionable buff color to a dark golden caramel. Spock doesn't look like he's the least bit worried about the weather. No, he seems like he could patiently wait for whatever Jim had to say, no matter the conditions.

"Train? Bus?" Jim suggests pitifully, because as into Spock as he is, storm-avoiding has shot to the top of his priority list. He stuffs his hands into jacket pockets that are way too small to hold them comfortably. He so regrets not just wearing his jean jacket with the flannel lining he'd brought from Iowa; instead he's got on the dumb fashionable short coat he bought with some of his recent job earnings.

"If I might suggest," Spock begins.

"Anything, just, you know," Jim waves generally to indicate the crazy deluge they're still stuck in. He pulls his light outerwear tighter around himself in a futile gesture to block out the moisture already seeping through his clothes.

"Your clothing is already weighed down with water. That is not ideal, especially given the way you were attired for the duration of the job we have just completed. Might I remind you that you were trembling only a short while ago? And at the present moment, with the gale seeming to increase in intensity rather than --"

"Are you actually beating around the bush?" Jim interrupts. He would smile at that, since Spock's usually so efficient and careful with his words, but he's too busy trying to keep his teeth from chattering. When a truck trundles by on the sparsely trafficked street, Jim barely jumps out of the way in time before a huge splash of water rears up and almost soaks him further. "Spock, seriously," he half-shouts, "whatever you want to say, just go ahead and get it out!"

Spock looks a little surprised, like he hadn't realized how roundabout he was being. But he nods at Jim's request and draws himself up, still standing upright instead of hunched over, as if there wasn't rain pelting down all around them. "I would like to suggest an alternative to securing conveyance immediately. If you are amenable, it happens that I live quite nearby. We could procure dry garments for you so that you would not suffer the chill. And then once you are appropriately clothed, we could easily arrange for transportation for you wherever you wish to go."

"You actually live near here?" Jim yelps.

"Indeed. In fact --"

There's a flash of lighting quickly followed by a deafening crack of thunder. Even though Jim hadn't thought it was possible, it starts to rain even harder. "Oh my god, Spock, which way? Just start, and I'll follow!"

Spock must finally pick up on some of Jim's urgency, because he wastes no more time with words. Instead, he begins to run, loping down the block in a way that would make Jim think of gazelles dashing across veldts if he wasn't too busy trying to avoid the deeper puddles and hauling ass to keep up with Spock's nutso brisk pace.

Living "quite nearby" turns out to be Spock-Speak for a fifteen minute, make-your-lungs-ache, all-out sprint. Jim's panting like crazy by the time they arrive, and he's pretty sure at this point the rain has made everything he's wearing, from his street clothes to that spanking new pair of grey boxer briefs he still has on, completely sodden. It's definitely soaked through to his skin by now, and he feels clammy and chilly and utterly disgusting. It's nothing like the rains back near his family's farm in Iowa, where there's a cleansing fragrance in the air even as the skies let out torrents of rain. Jim feels like he's somehow picked up weird city goop and strange urban gunk along the way of their run, and he wants nothing more than to dive into a huge bath.

But that's obviously not a possibility, he thinks as he follows Spock's efficient jog up the stairs of a handsome brownstone building. He'll just borrow whatever stuff Spock can spare -- and maybe try not to think about wearing Spock's clothing too much if it's going to make his chest thump like crazy even more than their rain-run just did. Then he'll see if he can salvage something of the charged vibe of the shoot, so he can wrangle Spock into agreeing they should totally be going out. Because even if Spock got caught up in the moment during their time on set, Jim doesn't doubt Spock's art of over-thinking everything might take over at this point. He's prepared to work past it, though, because really, he's prepared to do all kinds of work when it comes to getting a real shot with Spock.

"You've got part of the first-floor?" Jim pants out by way of question when they enter. He notices Spock neatly slipping off his shoes onto a waiting mat, and hurries to follow suit, kicking off his soaked sneakers and quickly shedding his socks before those can leave wet marks on the floor. He must have missed how all the other people who live here get inside their units, so he stands for a second with his hands planted on his hips, peering about. Was there a lobby or a tiny foyer he missed in his rush to get inside, or --

"Whoa, hang on," he interrupts himself before Spock can reply. His eyes go wide as he sees the open staircase leading right into the floor above and tons of evidence of killer renovations, complete with modern angles and high ceilings everywhere he looks.

"No way," Jim breathes, pushing inside a little further before he remembers that he's probably dripping water stains on what look like expensive imported rugs and pieces of one-of-a-kind designer furniture. "This is all yours? Holy crap, what's the rent on this thing?" He winces immediately afterward, because wow, talk about rude. If he was back home, his mother would give him a barely disguised look of horror for asking so baldly about money. But in the time he's been living in the city, Jim's gotten used to New Yorkers blithely talking about things people never mention out loud in the Midwest, like rent prices, and going to therapy, and watching their neighbors prance around buck naked.

"There is little doubt the rent on such a residence would be exorbitant even by New York standards," Spock says evenly. "But as I own this home outright, I pay no rent."

Jim opens and closes his mouth a few times. All this from modeling? Jim knows Spock's doing seriously well, but damn. It's a pretty sweet place, leagues beyond what Jim imagines himself affording even in his wildest dreams. But before he can figure out what the hell he's supposed to say next about Spock's awesome home ownership or ask any more rude questions about the price tag on this place, he sneezes.

"As I predicted, the cold and rain has begun to impact you already. We must obtain dry clothing for you to wear straightaway." Spock gestures for Jim to precede him up the blond wood floating staircase.

When they reach the next floor (and Jim spots yet another set of stairs, this one set further back; how many square feet does Spock own?) Spock steers Jim past what looks like an open lounge area. There are dark brown leather couches, ottomans in complementary colors, and actual artwork on the walls -- strokes of paint visible and artists' signatures scrawled and everything -- instead of the reproduction prints Jim and his roommates have tacked up to cover stains at their place.

They turn down a brief airy corridor and pass through a thin partition into a large bedroom. "Wait here," Spock murmurs before disappearing down a small passageway into where he must keep his stuff. If it's anything like the rest of the place, Jim figures the closet beyond must be huge and airy and sort of zen looking.

Jim glances around and swallows. He tries really, really hard not to stare at the bed that dominates the room, which is immense and billowy with piles of white pillows, a thick ecru-colored comforter, a very pale grey knitted throw across the foot of the bed, and various accessories in other colors on the white and off-white spectrum that Jim's a thousand percent sure he never knew existed at this point. Because, oh my god, that's where Spock sleeps at night after he takes off his clothes, and -- okay, not the time to start thinking about Spock slipping naked under those covers, how his pale skin and gorgeous dark hair would look against the soft bedclothes.

"Not looking, not even one little bit," Jim mutters to himself. With a sigh, he turns to examine a large mirror propped up against the exposed-brick wall, its dull gold frame a striking contrast with the neutral tones of the rest of the room. It stands offset from the center, probably to catch what must be a flood of light when there's actually sunlight.

Everything surrounding him is pretty fucking gorgeous. Except Jim, of course, who is standing there amid all the calm luxury of his surroundings, looking like a soaked, shivering street-rat that somehow managed to sneak in with the grime of the city still on his hide.

He scowls at the thought and tosses his damp shoulder bag to the side. No doubt he should keep it off the beautiful wood floors, but right now he's a little more concerned with the spectacle he's making. Well, that and fact that his case of the chills might turn into pneumonia or something if he doesn't start to give some of his sopping stuff the heave-ho.

Losing the bag doesn't improve the picture much. Everything Jim's wearing is drenched, and he looks like a goofball with his bare feet flexing on the floor while all his other garments stick to him wetly. Jim makes a face at himself in the mirror and shifts from one foot to the other, waiting to hear Spock's footsteps, which surely are going to start sounding out any second now.

After a moment of straining to hear what Spock's up to, Jim sighs and struggles out of his wet short coat. Talk about the worst investment ever -- the thing feels like it's made of tissue paper, completely ready to rip into shreds in its sodden state. After a pause, he flings it to land atop his bag. At least that way he's keeping his puddle-wear kind of contained.

That just leaves the t-shirt he wore to the shoot, which, true to his earlier prediction, is completely waterlogged. Jim plucks it from his chest, grimacing at the clammy feeling it leaves behind on his skin. He glances over his shoulder; still no Spock.

After rubbing up and down his own arms several times in an attempt to stave off the dampness, Jim realizes, huh, it's actually kind of warm inside Spock's place. It feels pretty much like the tropical air that permeates Jim's shared apartment in Queens when the heat's on; their thermostat's always cranked up by their overzealous landlord. Sulu keeps saying they should have a frozen drinks party to take advantage.

But Spock owns this place. He hardly seems the type to do something over-indulgent and wasteful, like burning through his own heating oil. Come to think of it, Jim doesn't doubt there's some expensive state-of-the-art and ecologically thoughtful method of warming the interior of Spock's designer-looking flat. He bets it's rigged up with some intricate system having to do with recycled shower water or a high-powered compost compression system.

The point is, it feels lots nicer in the air around Jim than it does in his own skin. So it only takes a moment more before Jim figures, what the hell, and peels his icky t-shirt off as well. He'll probably be comfier without it until Spock arrives with something dry for him to throw on. The t-shirt makes a weirdly satisfying squelching sound when Jim aims and lands it atop the pile he already has going.

He's just begun to contemplate the oddness of yanking off his wet jeans -- sure, he was in his underwear for the entire shoot they just did, but stripping out of his denim while he's waiting for Spock to get back is probably taking things a step too far -- when there's a small noise behind him.

Jim glances up to see Spock a few feet away, his eyes traveling down and up Jim's reflection until they're fixed on Jim's bare torso.

When Spock's observation shifts to Jim's face, their gazes meet in the mirror. Jim goes completely still, watching Spock advance closer, his arms filled with towels and what must be a change of clothes for Jim. Spock himself has already changed into something else; he's got on grey trousers so soft looking Jim sort of wants to stroke his palms over Spock's thighs and a thin nubby sweater to match.

"Sorry, it was just -- I kept feeling so gross, standing here with everything stuck to me --"

"Explanations are unnecessary." Spock doesn't take his eyes off Jim as he sets down the pile of clothes on a convenient small table. "You will likely prefer to make use of this prior to dressing," Spock adds, holding just one towel now. He takes a step closer, so that he's nearly flush against Jim's back, his heat radiating just a breath away.

"Makes sense," Jim says, his voice low. In the tense atmosphere, he can't help but run his fingers through his hair. Both of them watch in the mirror as some of the droplets clinging to the strands fall to Jim's shoulders. "Should definitely dry off," Jim adds as he draws his hand away. His voice is no more than a murmur at this point.

"A wise choice."

The set-up of the bedroom, taking up most of the front of the house on this floor, probably fills it with light usually. But with the sun still hidden under the clouds and the rain keeping up a steady patter outside, the room has a surreal blue-grey glow. It's as though they're in a secret place underwater, the two of them all alone in a hidden submerged world.

Jim waits, fingers twitching, hoping for even the barest touch of Spock's hand as he gives Jim the towel. But Spock doesn't hand in the towel over. Instead, he draws that slightest bit closer -- Jim can feel the fibers of Spock's nubby sweater brushing against his back now -- and runs the towel slowly over Jim's head.

Neither one of them speaks. Jim realizes after a beat that their breaths have begun to match -- deep inhale, slow exhale -- as Spock gently presses the towel against Jim's hair.

Eventually most of the moisture that can be blotted away is gone. Spock hesitates, the towel poised in mid-air.

"Thanks, I --" Jim starts hoarsely. He's not sure if he's supposed to make a grab for the towel now, use it to dry off the rest of the way. But something tells him not to be an idiot, to keep still and let whatever's happening keep on happening. So the only movement he makes is to search out Spock's eyes in the mirror -- his blue eyes meeting brown so darkened and dilated they're nearly black.

In place of an answer to Jim's faltering words, Spock begins to sweep the towel over first one and then the other of Jim's arms.

"Okay," Jim says, his voice getting a little thready. His skin prickles, electrified wherever Spock touches, even though the towel is crazy soft and Spock's fingertips only breeze over Jim's body here and there.

When Spock brings the towel up to rub gentle circles over Jim's chest, Jim inhales sharply. Spock's eyes snap to his in the mirror.

"You would prefer to perform this task yourself," Spock suggests. His voice is gritty, just this side of a growl.

"No," Jim whispers. "You -- this is -- keep going. Please."

Whatever objections Spock's conscience might have about all of this, his demeanor betrays none of them at the moment. Instead his fathomless eyes gleam with a kind of hazy satisfaction as he massages the towel over Jim's shoulders, down the knobs of Jim's spine. When he finally swipes the fabric with a gentle touch across the small of Jim's back, his fingertips linger.

Through it all, Jim lets his eyes go heavy, partially closing them. He never looks away from the image the two of them make in the mirror, though -- himself just in his jeans, Spock entirely clothed behind him, the way Spock wordlessly takes care of Jim, intent on the task as if it is his right. It's almost meditative, the rhythmic soft strokes of the towel, the steady and sure movements of Spock's hands -- or it would be if it weren't for the pulses of desire building in Jim's gut moment by moment, just beyond the veil of calm that Spock's careful touches create.

Anything else Jim might think to say next gets caught in his throat when Spock halts, the now-damp towel balled in his hand.

"No doubt you would wish privacy to change," Spock says gruffly. "I -- excuse the liberties I have taken --"

He gets no further, though, before Jim shakes his head slowly and brings Spock's free hand up to rest on his belly, just above the waist of his jeans. Very deliberately, he leans back against Spock. It's an echo of that moment at the very first shoot they did together, the first time they touched. And Jim feels the charge at this simple contact reverberate right down to his core.