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Stellar Explosion

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"So we do two sets of photos," the photographer growls. Jim has already dubbed him Bones in his mind because of the way he keeps barking out orders on how to stand during the lighting tests that are weirdly anatomically correct. No one's ever shouted at Jim to position his ulna a certain way to get the best angle before, but hey, whatever works.

"One for color and one for black and white?" the assistant asks anxiously. He's curly haired and wide-eyed, probably even younger than Jim, and looking at Bones like his word is a decree handed down from on high.

"No, kid, one set of shots including the girls for the mainstream magazines, and one set with just the guys for the 'men's magazines'," Bones mutters as he makes air-quotes with his fingers. He changes his camera lens quickly before he downs the rest of his coffee with a grimace.

"Oh, yes! The homoerotic shots, got it."

Jim has the urge to raise his hand to ask a question, like he's back in school, because what the hell? It sounds even more startling in that Slavic-type accent Curly Hair has. But Curly Hair is already nodding fervently at something else Bones is complaining about, quickly making a note on his tablet and trotting after the photographer when the man stalks over to the lights to adjust them yet again.

"Uh," Jim says awkwardly to the other male model who just arrived at the shoot, already done with wardrobe and make-up. Spock, his mind supplies; he's seen the guy's work in magazine spreads and on billboards, all blank expressions and elegant lines and that weird signature haircut of his. He's such a superstar that he apparently gets to go by only one name, unlike Jim, who keeps nervously introducing himself as "Jim Kirk," like it's one word (and only just remembering to change the first word from "Jimmy").

The words "homoerotic shots" are still echoing in his head as Jim laughs awkwardly and says, "That's, uh. Okay. Right?" He blushes, but he stares at Spock expectantly. Spock's a pro, after all; he's got to know whether or not this is a normal type thing.

"Does your utterance require a reply?" Spock asks, one eyebrow arched skeptically.

"Homoerotic?" Jim blurts.

"You are new to this venture," Spock decides before he obligingly turns his face to a makeup assistant who has just bustled over to him to do a touch-up to his cheekbones. Not that she has to highlight them at all; the guy's gorgeous, with the kind of bone structure that makes fashion editors swoon. "I surmise you were discovered quite recently."

"Pike Universal Modeling found me in Iowa," Jim says and quickly winces. He doesn't want to seem like a totally naïve newcomer. "How'd you know I was new to modeling?" he asks a second later, trying to seem blasé. "I've done, you know, some stuff already. For Seventeen, and there was that spread for that crappy clothing chain that makes the sweatshirts --"

"I have not seen you in the major magazines," Spock comments calmly. "With your distinctive blue eyes and all-American look, an appearance quite in demand of late, I imagine I would have encountered your work before this point were you not a newcomer to the profession."

"Yeah, I guess I am kinda new," Jim says awkwardly. Inside his mind, he's telling himself to shut up, to act way cooler. This Spock guy probably sees him as competition, and Jim so doesn't want to be eaten alive on his first major modeling gig.

"The insinuations of sexual attraction between men are quite common in the versions of advertisements that are published in magazines aimed at a male audience," Spock explains as if lecturing. Weirdly, Jim kind of wants to take notes, because it occurs to him in a startled rush that makes his cheeks flush red that Spock is pretty much trying to help him out, instead of squashing him like bug. "You need not concern yourself with the implications the photographer will desire to portray."

"Okay," Jim says, swallowing. "Um. Thanks."

Spock gives him a brief nod before he turns to greet a few of the girls who have just arrived on the set.

Soon enough Bones is back, his assistant Pavel darting here and there to make adjustments to equipment or convey Bones's orders to the various helpers hovering around waiting to do their parts. Jim finds he doesn't have time to be nervous, not with being directed to stand here, look there, lean back, eyes up, and all that kind of thing.

At some point he's directed to stand next to Spock. One of the girls sprawls just below them, looking more bored than Jim thought was possible, which Bones seems to think is fantastic.

"Perfect, Beth; you're stunning," Bones grumbles as he looks down to get the shot. "Jim, closer to Spock. That's it."

He probably shouldn't relax for even a second, given the way Bones is snapping away like crazy, and Jim's agent has sternly told him multiple times that he always has to be "on" when he's getting photographed. But he's close enough to Spock, and tired enough from the whirlwind of the shoot, that he leans on Spock just for a second.

Two things happen. Spock stiffens for a moment before he relaxes and slides a hand to cover Jim's hipbone. And Bones just about gives himself a heart attack shouting at them, "Yes, Jim, lean in, more, that's fabulous!" He almost sounds angry, but Jim can tell from the way Pavel is fluttering around that this is definitely a good development.

Before Jim knows it, he's draped over Spock, the girls have been ordered to the side, and Spock has turned his head like he's nuzzling Jim's hair.

Curly Hair is going nuts, rushing around the set to tell everyone what adjustments to make, and the people from the fashion house are grouped together in a weirdly intense huddle, whispering excitedly.

All the while, Spock stands just behind him, guiding Jim through the moves. He's doing things like skimming fingertips down Jim's arm or half-curling his lean frame possessively around Jim's, almost like he's protecting him from possible enemies. It's a far cry from Spock's very distant posing at the start of the shoot, that's for sure. It makes Jim's heart beat faster, feeling the heat from Spock's body against his and the steady puff of Spock's breath at his neck. But somehow Jim finds himself standing more confidently, letting his eyelids go heavy when Bones calls for that and allowing his hips to tilt forward easily when Spock directs him to do it with a brush of his hand against the small of Jim's back.

"And that's it, everyone," Jim hears Bones call out. Jim straightens, feeling dazed, and watches in some confusion as Spock resumes his stiff posture and stalks away.

"Terrific work out there," Bones says as Jim walks by. "You're going to be a star, kid."

"What was all that about?" one of the girls from the shoot asks Jim as he emerges from the dressing area back in his street clothes.

"Um. Modeling?" he offers.

She snorts. "No, all the stuff with Spock." She peers at him with interest and shakes her head when he looks at her blankly. "Come on. You must know Spock refuses to touch anyone when he's posing. Like, it's in his contracts; he's never done it before. And the two of you were all over each other just now."

He has no idea how to answer, and lucky for him, he doesn't have to. "I have to take this," he says, trying not to seem too eager when his cell phone goes off with his agent's name.

"They want you for another shoot with Spock," she says eagerly as soon as Jim answers.

"I barely finished the first one," he answers, completely bewildered.

"The two of you are so hot together; I'm hearing it was like a stellar explosion on the set! Jimmy, I've gotten three calls already wanting to know if they can get the two of you in as soon as possible."

Jim looks up and catches Spock's eye just as the other model pauses at the warehouse door, about to depart.

"Jim, let me tell them yes," his agent is practically screeching.

"Yeah, okay, yes," he says quickly.

Spock nods once at him and leaves. And already all Jim can think about is seeing him again.

Chapter Text

"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.

Chapter Text

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?

Chapter Text

"Bones," Jim exclaims when he arrives at the set for his next gig and sees the photographer he'd dubbed with that nickname only days ago.

It's sort of a surprise, getting this booking for NoHo Threads, even more of a surprise than finding Bones behind the camera. Jim's seen their billboards all over town, and when he mentions it to Sulu, Sulu makes a noise filled with total indignation and envy before he smacks Jim on the shoulder. So it's obviously a pretty hot line, and a big get for a newcomer like Jim.

Rand mentions several times, though, that the designer-owner of the brand had seen the proofs of the photos from Jim's photoshoot with Spock. Apparently he had started snapping fingers right then at his assistants, sending them scurrying so he could ask for Jim immediately.

"They want a similar vibe to what you did with Spock," Rand tells him when he's on his way there, like she's scolding him for forgetting something she's reminded him about a billion times already. "You know, guys standing really close together, romantic insinuations, suggestive poses."

"They want something homoerotic," Jim blurts from the subway platform, where he's huddled up to the iron gate leading to the exit and the street above. It's the only way he can catch a blip of a signal to continue their conversation, though it puts him right near the path of everyone pushing through the turnstiles. A tall man in scrubs and a heavy coat standing a few feet away from him snorts at Jim's exclamation. Jim glares at him before turning away to gain a little more privacy.

"Yes, that's exactly it, Jimmy. Now get your ass over there, and work your blue-eyed blond-haired brand of commanding magic!"

"As soon as the train comes, happy to," he says, peering over at the darkened tunnel to see if one is on its way.

"What? Why didn't you take a cab?" she moans. "You could have been there already!"

"Because I'm kind of short on cash, okay?" he hisses. He glances over his shoulder, and Tall Scrubs is shaking his head at him, like, of course Jim would be short on cash. "It's not like I've gotten really good jobs the entire time I've been here, right? And the paycheck for the last two is only coming at the end of this week --"

"Ugh. EXPENSE REPORT IT! I'll cover your fare for this shoot."

"Back to Queens, too?" Jim asks hopefully.

"Don't push it, kid," she says before hanging up.

So Jim manfully had resisted the urge to flip off Tall Scrubs, taken off at a jog through the turnstile to head to the street above, and made it to the shoot with seconds to spare.

"What'd you just call me, kid?" the grumpy photographer asks now that Jim has arrived on the scene and greeted him. His brow looks like it's furrowed in a permanent state of irritation.

"Bones?" Jim repeats uncertainly. Of course now he's having a hard time remembering the guy's actual name instead of the handle he'd bestowed on him. "It's just -- I was calling you that in my head, from when we met at that shoot with Spock. Because of the time you told me how to position my ulna and shift my femur? But --"

"Yeah? Bones, huh? Well. I like it," the photographer growls. He jerks a thumb to indicate Jim better get the hell over to hair and makeup.

"Off with your shirt, honey," the bored looking skinny man unpacking his brushes says as Jim finishes with the hair people and arrives at his station.

"My shirt?" Jim asks in shock before he covers his face with his hands. So much for coming off totally blasé and experienced at this gig.

"Oh, sweetie, they didn't tell you?" the man asks irritably. He's already tugging impatiently at Jim's t-shirt, basically slapping Jim's hands away when he tries to help. "It's bared chest for at least some of the shoot. So we do the base all over the body for now and work out how we're going to highlight those sweet abs and pecs too, okay?" He emphasizes the latter areas by poking Jim sharply in his now-exposed stomach.

"Yeah, okay," Jim manages to get out without saying, Are you serious? in an indignant squawk as he kind of wants to.

Not that he has a huge objection to taking some of his clothes off for the camera; it's just that Rand so didn't mention it. Maybe she didn't have time, he thinks resentfully when the make-up guy gingerly drops Jim's t-shirt to the side like it's made entirely of bugs. Obviously she found out about this job last-minute just like Jim did. It's only that a guy sort of wants to prepare for stuff like this instead of having it sprung on him.

"We have to have our shirts off the entire time?" he asks as the other man gives a shrewdly assessing touch to Jim's ribcage and begins to shake one of his bottles of make-up.

"Hey, it'll be great; don't sweat it," a shirtless guy says as he wanders over with a huge bottle of water in his hand.

"You're working on this job too?" Jim asks him when the guy meanders closer to check Jim out in the lit-up mirror.

From the way the make-up artist rolls his eyes over Jim's shoulder, it's definitely a dumb question. The guy who just arrived wears artfully faded jeans with a woven leather belt and little else. He's barefoot and he's already been skillfully hair-tousled, with evidence of expertly applied highlighter and blush not only over his high cheekbones but at various strategic points on his exposed chest as well. And from the way the guy stands behind him, assessing Jim like he's both a competitor and a prospect, sort of clinches it.

"Sure am. I'm Gary. I'm looking forward to seeing you show your stuff out there." The guy grins at him, easy and confident, before taking a long swallow of his water. As soon as he's apparently verified that Jim and the make-up artist are both watching him, he strolls off to chat with Bones's assistant Pavel. From the way Pavel drops the clipboard he's holding a moment later and blushes all the way from his cheeks to his ears, Gary's saying something at least a little suggestive. Jim totally sympathizes; he's only talked to that Gary guy for a second, and already he feels kind of disarmed.

"Gary Mitchell," the make-up artist murmurs to Jim as he deftly sponges base cream all over Jim's forehead.

"You're Gary Mitchell?" Jim asks in confusion. It seems like a big coincidence for the make-up guy to share a first name with Jim's work partner for the day.

"No, you adorable idiot," the guy sighs as he yanks Jim's arms up to try some neutral tinted liquid on his delts. "I'm Rodney. That was Gary Mitchell. He just did a spread for Ralph Lauren, and he's up for a small role in the next Gus Van Sant film that's casting. Get with the program -- you need to keep an eye on your competition, cupcake."

Jim gives a jerky nod like he gets what all of that means, and focuses on not snapping back at Rodney for calling Jim an idiot and a cupcake.

By the end of the make-up session, though, the artist's various condescending gossip and snide comments about what a naïve cutie Jim is are getting Jim pretty riled up. Hell, he's already upset about how yesterday's conversation with Spock went down. And rushing to the shoot and getting competitive energy from Gary the more-of-a-star-model-than-Jim hasn't helped his mood any. Even the memory of the mocking guy from the subway platform ticks Jim off right now.

When Rodney pronounces, "Okay, that's the best I can do for now, honey," and shoos him to the set like he's a toddler who needs to be wrangled, Jim stalks away from the chair, gritting his teeth and barely noticing his hands curling into fists at his sides.

He tries to take a couple of deep breaths as Bones calls for several lights to get adjusted, forcing himself to count slowly on the exhale and inhale. He can't imagine anyone wants one of the models to start the job feeling like he's ready to punch the first person who looks at him funny. But even though Jim doesn't get enough time to calm down, the frustration turns out to work for him anyway.

After a few stiff poses together on the fake outdoor set, Bones yells out that they should try a couple of wrestling moves to get things going. Gary laughs and gives Jim a patronizing look, like he doubts Jim will be able to hold his own in a little hand-to-hand, even if it's all fake for the cameras.

"Oh, it's so on," Jim mutters as he launches himself at Gary. Gary barely has time to let out a surprised "Oof!" before Jim's grabbed him around his middle and they tumble to the ground together.

"Ugh, screw the both of you, we're going to need to reapply," Jim hears Rodney call in exasperation, probably about the streaks of base make-up he and Gary are smudging on each other's jeans while they grapple. But surprisingly instead of getting pissed-off about the way Jim rushed him, Gary shoots Jim a cocky grin like they're pals now. And when Jim grins back, Gary gets him in a friendly headlock and laughs. So it's not like Jim can summon up much worry over how Rodney's day has been ruined.

"Guess you're not such a newbie nerd after all," Gary pants when he and Jim get to their feet after they've been rolling around for a while. They circle each other, both of them grinning, while Bones mutters imprecations about how they're moving their fool pelvises too fast and snaps pictures of them the entire time.

"Oh, hell no. What'd you just say you thought about me?" Jim asks, baiting Gary with a "come on," hand gesture.

"Well, I thought you were a hot piece of ass, but with like, no game at all," Gary says, obviously amused.

"Oh, it's definitely on now," Jim says with a laugh before he tackles Gary again.

By the end of the shoot, most everyone on the set is laughing at their antics. A few people, though, like Pavel, look a little red in the face. Because while Jim and Gary have been rolling around or sprawling atop each other, Gary's been kind of, well. Handsy, is probably the best way to put it. He keeps grabbing Jim's ass or trying to tug Jim's jeans lower by the belt loops, despite Jim saying, "Hey!" resentfully and smacking his hand away. One time he even yanks Jim's back snug against his torso, and tries to bite at the juncture of Jim's shoulder and neck. At least when Jim ducks away from the attack just in time and pulls Gary's legs out from under him, Gary just guffaws like an arrogant dope instead of pushing his luck further.

It's hard to get too annoyed, because it seems like Gary's just a big joker. He smiles at Jim the rest of the time, easy and unperturbed, even after the times Jim shoves his wandering hands away. Meanwhile, Gary's obviously an equal opportunity flirt; he calls out some things that make the woman who did Jim's hair snicker playfully, and he joshes Pavel a bunch of times about how much he's probably enjoying the show of him and Jim rolling around together.

He can't miss, though, how uncomfortable Pavel looks, and how Bones's angry scowl has begun to make him seem like a pissed off thundercloud. Even so, Jim sort of figures it's all in good fun even if Gary comes on a little strong.

At least, he figures that right up until the moment Gary slides into the bathroom where Jim's just been told he can shower.

"What's up?" Jim asks in confusion.

Gary leans back against the door and says offhandedly, "Hey, that was pretty fun out there. So I was thinking. You can blow me if you want."

Jim laughs aloud at that, but he stops when Gary waits for his answer, one hand planted on his hip like he's getting a little impatient. Jim can't stop himself from glancing down at the fingers framing that groin, because hello, and yeah, Gary's really hard.

It's not a huge shock; Jim had felt the other guy's hard on when they were tumbling around and taking the occasional rest leaning against each other. But no way would he have bet on Gary seriously suggesting that Jim get down on his knees for him right after the shoot.

"Uh. No thanks?" Jim says. He laughs again, though it's a little more strained this time. Gary closed the door behind him when he followed inclined against it, and Jim isn't totally sure how many people are still at the shoot. He's pretty sure he can take Gary in an actual fight if he has to, but he doesn't want to belt another model unless he can't avoid it. It seems kind of unprofessional. Though hey, Gary being a dick and assuming Jim wants to suck his cock is pretty freaking unprofessional too.

"No?" Gary asks. He would sound incredulous if he put a tiny bit more effort into it, like he's totally unused to being turned down. Unlike Jim he's a little more suave at this stuff, though, because he manages to pull off just sounding casually skeptical. "Kind of makes you a tease, if you ask me."

For a moment the small room is filled with tension, and Jim feels himself begin to brace his body, either to push Gary away or throw a punch.

"Okay, then," Gary says, and suddenly he's all smiling friendliness again. "Any time you want to though, buddy. Standing offer," he adds. He claps Jim on the shoulder like they're pals once more and finally leaves the room.

While Jim stands there stunned, he hears the sound of irate Russian words just outside the door, and Gary's scornful laugh in reply.

"You are all right?" a voice calls out a second later.

Jim opens the closed door a crack to see Pavel, Bones's assistant, standing there looking righteously outraged.

"Yeah, I'm okay. That guy --" Jim laughs off the rest of the sentence in lieu of explaining. From Pavel's expression, he's already pretty much guessed what went down.

"He is most rude," Pavel says disapprovingly. He crosses his slim arms over his puffed-out chest, and Jim feels a funny little surge of affection when he realizes that Pavel actually stormed over to try and help out. Never mind that Pavel looks like a strong enough wind could snap him in half.

"He's pretty full of himself," Jim agrees. "Honestly, though, if he had tried anything for real, he would have walked out with two black eyes."

"That is good," Pavel says decisively. "He deserves such blows for his arrogance."

Thanks, kiddo," Jim says before he thinks through that Pavel might not appreciate being called that.

Rather than look insulted, though, instead Pavel's face lights up with a wide smile. "You are wery welcome! I know how to deal with --" and here he launches into another string of Russian words that sound pretty freaking uncomplimentary -- "like that." He gives Jim a sharp nod and leaves him alone.

After Jim showers off all the make-up and jumps back into his street clothes, he finds Bones still in the studio, muttering over some of the live feed they had been apparently taking during the shoot.

"Pavel told me what happened," Bones says shortly before Jim can speak. "That Gary is a real trouble-maker. I caught up to him before he took off, told him to take a hike and never bother you again. You let me know if you have any problems with him."

"Thanks," Jim says, a little dazed at the offer. "I can handle him myself, though," he feels compelled to point out.

Bones scoffs at that, but says only, "I bet you can. Just don't want you to bruise those knuckles of yours; you never know when you might get some hand modeling work."

As Jim blinks at this advice, Bones stuffs a card into Jim's jacket pocket. "That's so you can call me if you need a hand -- not that you will," he adds with a mischievous look to his face when Jim opens his mouth to protest again that he's good as far as protecting himself goes.

"Oh, I can give you my number, too," Jim says, remembering his manners. It's not like he gives it to everyone he meets doing this modeling thing, but Bones seems like one of the more stand-up guys Jim has encountered on the job.

"Already got yours, kid, from your agent for that first shoot," Bones tells him, waving off Jim's offer. "In fact --" he hesitates.

"You were the one who gave it to Spock," Jim realizes at once. He grins. "I kind of wondered who had done that."

"Yeah, well." Bones rubs the back of his neck as he scowls. "Spock is all right. Talks like a goddamn college professor half the time, but he's okay. I figured if he wanted your number, it wasn't like he was going to do anything horrible. I wouldn't give it out to just anyone," he adds crossly as if Jim had been about to suggest such a thing.

"I can tell you wouldn't," Jim rushes to say. And since he has Bones right here, and Bones seems to know stuff about Spock... "Do you think he, uh. I mean, he asked you for my number, I guess, so. Maybe." He clears his throat.

Bones rolls his eyes up to the ceiling and heaves a great put-upon sigh. "Yeah, he definitely asked for your number. No, I have no idea why. Do I think he like likes you? I haven't the faintest. You want to find out what's on Spock's mind, good luck to you. I can't help you any with that."

"Right, yeah," Jim says, trying not to let his disappointment show.

"Chin up, kid," Bones says gruffly, clapping Jim on the shoulder like he's Jim's coach or something. "Everything will work out okay."

"You really think so?" Jim can't resist asking.

Bones snorts at that. "Hell if I know, but that's what you want to hear, right?"

Jim cracks a smile at that. Bones makes him feel weirdly better even if he isn't really one for platitudes. Plus Jim figures that with Bones and Pavel now on the short list of people looking out for him in the city, he's maybe a little less lonely than he figured.

**********

"SHOOT WITH SPOCK TOMORROW," Rand's next email reads in the subject line.

Jim calls her up before he even bothers to skim the rest of it.

"They rescheduled the shoot?" Jim asks eagerly when she answers in her harried taking-on-the-movers-and-shakers voice.

"No, this is a different gig," she says in distraction. "I don't know when that other shoot is going to happen, if it ever will."

Before Jim can register the weird feeling he gets at hearing that, Rand continues. "This one's for a newer brand, from three up-and-coming young designers who partnered together. They had surprise hits at the last fashion week. So it's a little more indie than you've done so far, but it'll be good for your portfolio. Besides, there's lots of buzz about you because --"

"I know, because of the stellar explosion with Spock thing," Jim says dutifully.

The sound of shuffling papers is all Jim hears for a second. "Nope. I think Leonard McCoy talked you up to one of the designers, even though he's not working on this one."

"Leonard -- oh, Bones," Jim exclaims.

Rand makes an impatient sound, like she doesn't know why Jim's calling McCoy "Bones", and totally doesn't want to find out about it. "Now, back to who will be on the set -- it'll be you and Spock, but I don't think they're featuring the two of you together. There are at least a couple of other models engaged for this one, so you might need to jockey for face time. Can you do it?"

Jim looks down at the empty day planner his mother gave him before he got on the plane to New York. Even though he's got a better calendar going with an app on his phone, he keeps pulling this one out instead. The whole week ahead of him is empty. "Yeah, I think I can swing it," he answers casually.

"I haven't even told you the time yet," she says, sounding amused.

"Fine, Janice, congratulations," he grumbles while he taps his pen on the paper and waits for the info. "You caught me out; I don't have any plans tomorrow."

"Yeah, well, you better not have any plans if there's a chance you can get to work with Spock again," she scolds. "Let's see, I have the call time right here --"

He bites his tongue so he can't tell her how much he agrees with her. Possibly it's not the smartest thing, but he's all about jumping at the chance to work with Spock again. Maybe now he can at least explain the misunderstanding about Gaila. And he can make sure to come across all cool and collected so he won't seem overly interested, just in case Spock doesn't, as Bones says, like like him.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

"Hi," Jim says stupidly when he's reached the spot on the club's dance floor where Gary's swiveling his hips for a crowd of admirers.

A flare of doubt flashes through Jim when Gary looks him over and grins. Like he told Gaila, he didn't exactly think he'd be rushing to hang out with Gary Mitchell any time soon. But it's a crowded club, and Gary can't really pull anything if Jim doesn't want him to. Plus it's kind of nice, after dealing with Spock's glares of sheer disdain, to run into a guy who looks all kinds of pleased to see Jim.

"Hey, gorgeous," Gary says in his ear, pushing his cheek up against Jim's to make himself heard. Out of the corner of his eye, Jim watches some of Gary's hangers-on back off reluctantly when Gary pulls Jim closer so they can dance together.

"Hi," Jim repeats, and rolls his eyes when Gary laughs. Jim sways into his arms a little, still feeling a bit off kilter from the alcohol. Luckily Gary steadies him, hands gripping Jim's shoulders.

"Lucky me, running into you again. Fuck, you look great tonight." He runs his hands appreciatively down Jim's arms. Jim can't tell if what he's admiring more, though: Jim or the designer shirt Scotty loaned him.

"You too," Jim says automatically, though just like back at the alcove with Gaila, he barely notices how Gary looks. Because despite his best efforts to distract himself tonight, Gary is definitely not the one Jim's looking for. He shakes his muddled head, trying to clear it.

"That's it," Gary says encouragingly when Jim stumbles and they end up torso to torso. It's almost like their friendly back-and-forth during at the NoHo Threads shoot, except they're both still wearing shirts. "Friendly tonight, huh? I like it." He grins, all teeth. "Hey, maybe you want to take me up on that offer I made last time?" The last word is barely past his lips before Gary moves in to mouth Jim's neck and nibble his earlobe.

When Jim jerks back with a frown and brings his hand up to shove Gary away, Gary laughs and catches his wrist in a playful clasp. "Kidding, I'm totally kidding! Don't get so upset, buddy. We're just looking to have a little fun on the dance floor, am I right?"

Jim nods, relieved, and smiles when Gary turns the dance into something a little less clingy. It's still kind of grind-y. But; that's just the way everyone's dancing all around them as near as Jim can make out, so Jim goes with the flow. The last time he danced with anyone was with Bethany Hobart in a high school gym, after all; he's obviously out of the loop with how it's supposed to go down in real dance clubs. This scene, and everything in New York, feels worlds away from Iowa, high school, and all that Jim left behind when he boarded that plane to New York City. He should probably feel a little self-conscious about how out of place he was when he got here, how out of place he still is, really. But Gary's appreciative looks and the alcohol do wonders to help Jim forget his insecurities and slip into a languid haze of music and movement.

Before too long, the two of them are surrounded by admirers who seem thrilled whenever Jim slings his arms carelessly around Gary's neck or Gary skims his hands over the seat of Jim's jeans. The song changes seamlessly from one to another as the DJ keeps the music going, and Jim loses track of how long he's been out here, with Gary's thigh pushed up between his legs, and Gary's hands steadying the small of his back.

"You two are so hot together," one girl moans near them before she drapes herself over another guy nearby.

"We put on a good show, right, baby?" Gary tells Jim, yanking him closer in a possessive grab.

"Just for fun," Jim reminds him automatically.

"Well, we'll see if you change your mind about that later," Gary says, clearly amused as he moves his hands along Jim's hips.

Before Jim can raise his eyebrows and tell Gary he's not changing his mind anytime soon, someone trills, "Hey there!" in Jim's ear a second later.

"Gaila?" he asks in confusion, because she's somehow made her way out next to him and Gary.

"I fixed your phone," Gaila yells proudly.

"Huh?" He edges away from Gary so he can make a grab for his phone in her hands. "Did I leave it at the table?"

"You did!" she shouts over the music, clearly way too delighted about something. "See, I worked it all out for you. When you have problems texting a certain number, you should always test it out again another time! You know, to make sure the messages are going through."

Jim plucks his phone from her hand and looks at the conversation she's showing him. His jaw drops.

Because Gaila "tested" his phone by sending Spock photos of Jim and Gary going to town on the dance floor.

And Spock? Has texted back.

I fail to comprehend why you have directed this image to me, the text from Spock following the first snapshot reads.

Whatever reaction you wish to provoke in me, I can assure you that you will not receive it, follows quickly on Gaila's second photo, of Jim throwing his head back, his eyes closed almost as if he's in ecstasy, fingers combing through his sweaty hair. The way Gary's leaning forward in that one makes it seem like he's about to lick Jim's neck.

Yet I feel compelled to note your behavior is foolhardy and likely to involve you in troublesome circumstances, the next one states (arriving just seconds after an image that's zoomed in to focus on Gary smirking as he's tugging Jim close, his hands about to cup Jim's ass).

Wish you were here??? Gaila's answering text reads, an archly winking emoji Jim totally doesn't remember downloading following her words. Her next text is simply the club's address, accompanied by a shot of the street outside of the venue.

There's a gap of several minutes before Spock's next words, a terse Very well.

Jim numbly tries to scroll down, but there's nothing more in the conversation.

"What?" he asks her in shock. "You sent all that to Spock?" He's starting to feel decidedly dizzy, but he's so stunned that he barely feels Gary's arm snaking around his waist. At least the unexpected support keeps him from reeling.

"Don't get mad," she says with a pout. Her eyes flick to Gary and she gives him a simpering, obviously fake smile when he flashes an arrogant grin at her. "But you really ought to put a lock on that thing," she says in a lower voice that Jim can barely make out. Her face is suddenly serious as she glances again at Gary. "You wouldn't want someone who isn't looking out for you to get a hold of it."

"How is this looking out for me?" Jim shouts. "I told you Spock's already mad at me." Even with music blasting all around them, people are starting to stare at him yelling at Gaila. "Why would you do all that? He's going to think I'm the biggest jerk now!"

"Hey, relax, okay?" Gary says in his ear, voice sibilant and smooth. He's waving off the bouncer hovering nearby who seems to have been drawn to the scene, crowding behind Jim and pressing up against his ass. "Ignore her, baby."

"Jim, wait," Gaila entreats, looking conflicted. "It's not like you think -- I didn't mean --"

"Forget it, Gaila! I don't want to talk to you right now," Jim snaps, his voice hoarse and harsh.

The look she gives him is both worried and repentant. But the crowd around them soon swallows her up, and Jim doesn't have the energy left to feel badly about the way he yelled at her.

"Ugh, she's a total drama queen. Stay away from her if you know what's good for you," Gary advises. He leans in, nuzzling Jim's neck.

For a moment Jim sags against him, feeling overwhelmed. And that's when Gary's fingers slip down to palm Jim through his jeans, rubbing slowly.

"Get off me," Jim says, suddenly startled into sobriety. He tries to push Gary's hands away.

"Come on, you liked it a second ago," Gary answers. He sounds annoyed, and his breath is hot and tinged with sourness against Jim's cheek. "You're not going to act like a total tease again, are you? You've been spending all night winding me up."

"I mean it," Jim warns him. He turns around, pulling his wrist out of Gary's tight grip. "I told you before this wasn't going anywhere. You agreed when I said it; it was supposed to be just for fun."

"Yeah, right," Gary huffs. The stormy expression on his face tells Jim that Gary Mitchell isn't a guy who hears it when someone says no; he only hears not yet.

When Jim looks around in exasperation, he realizes he can't see Gaila or Sulu or Scotty anywhere. He's in the middle of a throng of writhing dancers in a hot steamy club, but between the shock still washing over him from Gaila's stupid idea of a joke and Gary being utterly unwilling to take a fucking no for an answer, his skin feels clammy and cold.

"Let's get out of here," Gary says to Jim, his voice again playful. He smiles beguilingly, probably to cover up for how demanding he sounded seconds ago.

"Absolutely not." Jim forcibly shrugs Gary off when Gary tries to sling an arm around his shoulders. "Don't make me knock you out, because believe me, I will if I have to!"

"Jim, hey. You know, you're kind of testing me here," Gary says, grinning to take the edge off the icy insistence threading through his words. He reaches out once again, trying to entwine his fingers with Jim's even as Jim jerks his hand back.

"I said no," Jim tells him furiously.

"You have heard his request. Unhand him at once," someone intones, voice carrying clearly to Jim's ears above the thrumming of the music despite not being raised to a yell.

"Hey, this has got nothing to do with you, so fuck off," Gary snarls to the recent arrival.

And that's when Spock -- for it is Spock who's speaking, standing unexpectedly at Jim's side -- reaches out coolly and does some kind of secret ninja ju-jitsu to Gary's neck. Whatever the move is, it makes Gary's eyes roll back in his head just before he crumples to the dance floor.

Gary's hangers-on, who never quite melted away, are soon exclaiming over Gary and hefting him to his feet, so Jim can't spare a second to worry about what Spock just did to the guy. Besides, it's hard to find the time to wonder what the fuck is going on when Spock's got Jim's bicep in a firm hold and is quickly maneuvering them through the club.

"Okay, what the hell?" Jim bursts out when they emerge through a heavy door and find themselves outside in a damp chilly alley. He wraps his arms around himself, shivering. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but I can take care of myself, all right?"

"Perhaps you have better demonstrated your skills in that area on other occasions," Spock tells him stiffly. He hasn't let go of Jim's arm yet, even grasps tighter when Jim goes to shake him off. "As of this moment, you seem to require aid and guidance. Despite my unwillingness to involve myself in such situations generally, I find I am compelled at this moment to step in due to your naïve blunders."

"I don't get you!" Jim yells in frustration, finally shoving Spock off and thumping against the wall when he staggers away. "First you act like maybe you want to get to know me better, like there could maybe even be a thing between us. Then you blow me off! You act mad every time you see me, and the way you talk to me, it's obvious you think I'm a complete fuck-up." Jim can feel his cheeks flushing hot as he keeps right on ranting. He doesn't know exactly where he's going with this, but damn it, he's going to make sure Spock hears what he has to say. "Why do you care what I do, anyway? It's not like you're my agent, or my dad, or even my friend! We barely know each other. And you made it pretty fucking clear in all kinds of ways you don't want anything to do with me ever again. So what makes you think you can just show up and --"

But Jim doesn't get to finish, because the next moment Spock is crowding him against the wall, kissing him frantically.

All the earlier posturing and grinding on the dance floor with Gary dissipates to nothing in comparison to this, to Spock's desperate sound as he captures Jim's mouth with an intensity that makes Jim's knees go weak.

Jim can't tell if he's trembling because of the cold night air or because of the way Spock's holding him. He's got one hand clamped almost iron-band tight around Jim's waist like he'll never let him escape, the other hand cradling Jim's jaw gently like Jim is something precious that must be protected at all costs.

Jim's been kissed plenty of times, though he's never made out with another guy before. But that's not the newness his brain gets stuck on -- it's how he's never been kissed even remotely like this, like Spock is staking a claim that no one, least of all Jim, will ever be able to deny. The way Spock's mouth moves over his, lips brushing fervently before deepening the kiss, tongue sliding deftly inside while Jim gasps through the onslaught and tries to hang on to whatever parts of Spock he can grab -- it feels like Spock's delved right into his thoughts, surged inside him to figure out exactly what will make Jim come apart.

Jim trembles, pushing closer, shoving his hands under Spock's shirt to touch feverish skin at his waist. He can't help but flex his fingers compulsively, dazed at feeling smooth skin over straining muscle, before he slides his palms up to skim along Spock's shoulder blades.

Everything between them, all the confusion and misunderstandings and arguments, has been leading up to this second; anything that's happened to Jim in the past weeks was merely a distraction and obstacle to getting as close as possible to Spock again.

"Oh god, I want to feel you, feel all of you," Jim mumbles, his words muffled against Spock's lips as he hungrily massages his fingers over Spock's toned back.

For a second Spock goes still. Jim starts to open his eyes, worried he's pushed a little too far.

Then there's a strange sound Jim can't process at first, almost like fabric shredding. "What --" Jim mutters, muffled against Spock's lips when he feels the yank of fraying cloth on his body. It's only when cool air breezes over his skin that his brain recognizes Spock has really and truly ripped Jim's shirt open. He doesn't even tear his mouth away from Jim's for a second, just pulls the material until it gives easily gives way under his strength. As soon as he has access, he runs a hot hand over Jim's chest with a proprietary, rough caress.

Just the thought of Spock using that strength so effortlessly makes hot need unfurl and pulse through Jim's entire body. They should go somewhere else, Jim thinks wildly as he surges as close as he can against Spock. Feeling hot press of Spock's thick erection against his belly is making Jim pant faster every second, and he's so hard his cock seriously hurts as it strains against the zipper of his jeans, the thin fabric of his boxer briefs no protection at all. They can't -- whatever's going to happen -- right here, can they? But no, even if it sounds nuts to keep on going in this weird misty alley, there's no time to leave for anyplace better, because Jim can't imagine letting go of Spock for a second.

Spock's hand at his waist loosens so his fingers can skim up and down over the swell of Jim's ass, increasing pressure on each go until he's actively kneading each cheek with ardent appreciation. Jim has to stop avidly sucking on the searing thrusts of Spock's tongue so he can throw his head back and let out a needy whine. The sound Spock makes in his ear in response is a straight-out growl, and Jim's cock throbs in answer.

When Spock frees one hand to stroke possessively down Jim's exposed neck, a beat later Jim makes a barely audible high-pitched sound: excitement, surrender, submission. Spock's teeth scrape down Jim's throat, leaving a raw tingling trail that he soothes with quick rasps of his tongue. They're undulating against each other, a wild twisting and thrusting that has Jim struggling to keep it together just for a little while longer. Because he needs something more, he needs everything more -- he just wants whatever Spock can give him right this moment. And it's like Spock really can honestly read Jim's mind, because immediately after, each of Spock's hands slip down from Jim's buttocks to his thighs, urgently lifting and supporting. With a shaky exhalation, Jim squirms, starts to wrap his legs around Spock.

Suddenly some vehicle's brakes screech in the street a few yards away. A man hollers, "Watch what you're doing, you fucking moron!" Car horns blast, and angry yelling follows. "Goddamn idiot!" and "For cryin' out loud, you dumb fuck!" echo back and forth in the small alley space.

"I --" Spock licks his lips, his eyes darting over Jim. With a slow and steady inhalation, he sets Jim down with care before he takes a step back and draws himself up. "I apologize."

"Huh?" Jim slumps against the wall at his back, trying to figure out what Spock's talking about.

"For my actions," Spock says to clarify, though to Jim's way of thinking, he still has no clue what Spock's asking forgiveness for.

Jim smiles at him crookedly. "You've got to be kidding. You've got nothing to be sorry for." He holds out a hand, his fingers twitching to feel Spock's skin again. "Come on, get back over here, okay?"

Spock's lips tighten. "I must not."

Jim waits, but there's no more explanation forthcoming. "Seriously? You're going to have to give me more than that." He knows Spock wants the exact same thing he does, wants it with every fiber of his being. To see Spock just step away from it, as though it takes no effort at all to stop -- it makes his head spin more than it did from all the drinks he downed earlier tonight.

"I have already determined my self-possession is threatened from being in close proximity to you. This impacts my ability to make the most appropriate decisions in your presence. I should never have allowed myself to --" Spock stops abruptly, his features going rigid in an expressionless mask. "It is unpardonable for me to force myself on you."

"Okay, maybe stop talking like a crazy person, and let's look at how I wasn't the tiniest bit unwilling through any of that," Jim rushes to say. When Spock's jaw tightens and he looks away, Jim moves forward quickly, trying to think what the hell he can say to stop Spock from wrecking this moment. But he pulls up short when Spock takes another deliberate step back.

"You remain partially inebriated, and therefore unable to grant appropriate consent," Spock says hollowly. "It is not logical for us to continue."

"You've got it all wrong," Jim protests. "Yeah, I had a couple of drinks tonight, but I haven't had a sip of anything since I headed out to the dance floor with--"

The flash in Spock's eyes exposes how Spock's already guessed what Jim had stopped short of saying -- since Jim headed out to the dance floor with Gary.

"Listen," Jim says urgently.

Spock's eyes narrow. "Furthermore, based on clear evidence of your dealings with others, you have displayed a lack of judgment in such situations previously." From the way his upper lip curls derisively, it's pretty clear what others he's got in mind. "The tendencies of your impetuous nature, in combination with these facts about your behavior and your current state of intoxication, make it unlikely that you are electing to undertake informed choices at the moment."

When Jim interrupts with, "Oh my god, give me a break," Spock holds up a hand to halt him from saying anything else.

"Additionally, such repeated conduct on your part throws into doubt your overall facility for judging what decisions are suitable in similar states of affairs. Thus, I cannot allow such interactions between us to continue, not only at this time, but at any later juncture."

Jim gives a hollow laugh. "You know, for a smart guy who keeps talking about evidence and logic, you sure are making a lot of assumptions about me. I don't think I like you forging ahead and deciding everything for both of us without letting me speak up even once about what's really on my mind."

"Your choice to goad me into attending the activities at this location speaks volumes about what is 'on your mind'," Spock tells Jim sharply.

"Hey, no," Jim protests. "For some reason Gaila thought it would be funny to send you those pictures. But I didn't tell her to take those photos, and I had no idea she was texting them."

"I see," Spock says after a pause, and somehow his stance is even more inflexible now. "I had assumed --" He breaks off, and before Jim can reply, Spock's ushering him toward the mouth of the alley to the street beyond.

"Stop guessing you know what's in my head," Jim says in irritation. He's trying to drag his heels, but Spock's stupidly strong and adamant. "You keep thinking you know what's going on, but come on! We barely know each other, so there's no way you can just automatically know. Wouldn't it be better to ask me what's up?"

Spock does pause at that, though the forbidding expression on his face isn't exactly promising. "It is true that, as you say, we do not know one another very well. That is all the more reason that such intimacies between us are inadvisable. I am not aware of your experiences or the possibility you might be misled by me into performing activities you do not truly desire. I cannot allow myself to continue this -- entanglement under such circumstances." He forcibly takes Jim's arm once again, escorting him with clear insistence toward the curb.

"Look, if I wasn't willing, I would sure as hell say so," Jim says, getting more and more annoyed at Spock herding him around. "You might not have figured this out already, but I'm not exactly shy. And I do -- listen, I like you," he says roughly, finally managing to side-step Spock's steering arm and bring them to a halt on the sidewalk. He's doing his damnedest not to blush like a kid confessing a schoolyard crush. "Maybe we don't know each other enough, but I want to, you know. Get to know you a lot better. I think we should hang out. Um, go on some dates. Maybe it sounds crazy because we haven't spent a ton of time together, but I keep thinking there's a real connection between us. That seems worth finding out about, right? Look," he tries again desperately when Spock's face goes from skeptical to blank, "All I know is that I've never felt this way about anyone before. Even if it's weird to feel so drawn to a guy I don't know much about, I don't want to miss out on what we could have if we try."

When Spock doesn't reply, instead making a sharp motion with one arm as if he's utterly fed up, Jim rolls his eyes and tries to grab him to get his attention. "What do you say? If we don't know each other enough, we can fix that. Don't you want to try this out for real?"

But Spock is way too freaking deft. He wasn't just gesticulating a minute ago; he's already somehow hailed a cab on this quiet street. Now, before Jim can figure out Spock's next defensive move and counter it, Spock has already draped his sleek black coat around Jim's shoulders (discreetly covering Jim's torn t-shirt and bared skin) and bundled Jim into the taxi's back seat.

"Again, please accept my apologies," Spock starts as soon as he's shut the vehicle's door. He looks like he wants to stalk away, but Jim's already lowered the window. Apparently Spock feels like the situation merits one last killjoy pronouncement.

Jim huffs out a frustrated noise and ignores the driver asking him where he wants to go. "You know what? Stop saying you're sorry for what we just did!" There's determination thrumming through Jim's body as he waves off the cabbie's repeated inquiries and leans out the open window to look Spock right in the eye. At this very second, despite all the misgivings and crises of confidence about Spock along the way, Jim has never felt more certain about anything. "You know what you should feel bad about?"

"I assume you are about to inform me," Spock says, his face an eerily expressionless mask and his body rigidly erect.

"You should apologize because we both know there could be something fantastic between us. And instead of doing whatever you can to grab on to that, to something people search for their entire lives, you're running the other way. I think you're incredible, and I think we could be pretty amazing together if we give it a try, but right now? You're acting like a coward."

Spock's eyes go hard at that, and he pivots on his heel to move off at a brisk pace. He doesn't look back once, just disappears around a corner.

When Jim can't see him anymore, he rests his hand flat on the glass of the window and tries to breathe. His heart feels like it's going to explode in his chest.

"Where to?" asks the cabbie again indifferently, as though the world hasn't just ground to a halt on its axis.

It doesn't matter, part of Jim wants to answer. Now it's not just a hypothetical scenario, Spock rejecting him. He's actually turned his back on Jim, walked away from what they could be together.

If Jim was smart, now's about the time he would throw in the towel. He could do his level best to forget about Spock. He could even get the hell out of New York, tell the cabbie to take him to J.F.K. and head right back to Iowa like his mom and everyone else he knows probably expects. It's not such a crazy idea. After all, Jim never thought this modeling thing would last as long as it did. Maybe Sulu and Scotty would miss him once in a great while. Maybe Bones would shake his head when he finds out and say it's a damn shame that Jim never followed through. But really, would it matter to anyone else?

Instead Jim crosses his arms and glares at the spot where Spock was only moments ago. "It does matter," he says aloud. It matters more than anything he's ever gone after in his entire life. Jim Kirk isn't going to back off from a challenge without fighting for what he wants.

"Kid, you've got to figure out where you're headed next," the man at the wheel says in exasperation.

"Yeah, okay, I've got it," Jim mutters. He rattles off his street address before he starts thumbing through his list of contacts on his phone. Maybe Spock feels like there shouldn't be anything between them, but Jim's going to prove him wrong.

Chapter Text

After apologizing to Sulu ("After you disappeared into thin air, I thought we were going to turn on NY1 in the morning to see your damn body floating in the East River," his roommate had ranted when they saw each other the morning after the club thing), and being apologized to by Gaila ("Jimmy, I really only was trying to help. Like, Spock gets jealous, he storms down to the club, you get Spock, get it? But okay, okay, I'll never ever ever do anything like that. Unless it seems like a really good idea. No, ugh, okay; I promise I won't, fine."), Jim cracks his knuckles and gets to working through his admittedly short list of connections.

Asking other models turns out to be a dead end. Sulu doesn't seem to have any info, which irritates Sulu like crazy whenever Jim thinks to ask again if he's heard anything. The blonde model he'd met at a recent shoot, Carol Marcus, is newer even than Jim at the business, and she doesn't know any of the recent gossip. And Uhura, the model paired with Spock at that last shoot, only snorts in amusement when Jim trips over himself explaining he's only bugging her with a phone call because he's trying to get in touch with Spock. "Good luck with that," she says before hanging up on him.

Janice Rand doesn't prove to be much help in Jim's quest ("Honey, Spock's people just are not returning any of my calls. Yes, I did ask them about that first job we were going to book with both of you. But I do have a different job for you starting next week -- as long as you're not scared of snakes?").

Even Christopher Pike, when Jim finally gets up the nerve to stammer through the request at his enormous expensively-decorated office, can't lend a hand ("If the VSA people weren't so closed lipped -- but I'll think of you first, son, should I hear anything. You can count on it.").

Jim even grits his teeth and phones Rodney, the make-up artist who had been such a pain at the NoHo Threads shoot ("Who? Jim who?). But that doesn't lead anywhere, except Rodney deciding by the end of the call that Jim is actually his new best friend and telling him they should go to Fire Island sometime, because Rodney's roommate's best-friend's ex-boyfriend's former leather-daddy's partner has a totally amazing place with a huge pool.

By the time a few days have passed, Jim is nearly at his wits' end. He hasn't been able to work out how to get near enough to Spock just to talk to him again, much less carry out his plan of convincing Spock the two of them should give a relationship a try.

Then, in search of a distraction from all the dead ends, Jim happens to sort through his towering piles of laundry. After all, he owes Scotty a nice shirt in trade for the one Spock ripped up -- even if, after clutching the ruined top to him like it was an injured child, Scotty had happily taken needle and thread to mend the frayed garment and proudly pronounced it "better than ever". And as Jim makes faces at the coffee stains on his t-shirts and empties out his various pockets while in search of something Scotty might like, he gets a very different flash of inspiration in the form of a business card sticking out of his jacket pocket.

After all, he's tapped nearly every other contact he's got, and come up blank so far. It can't hurt to check with a person he knows already got him one job just on his say-so.

So that's when Jim leaves the rest of his laundry in a big heap, flops on his futon, and quickly taps out Leonard McCoy's number on his phone.

"Listen, you've got to get me on the next shoot Spock has coming up," he rushes out as soon as the call connects.

"And hello to you, too, Jim," Bones says sarcastically. "I sure do love these friendly, polite chats of ours that always start with you asking after my health." He yawns loudly and then makes a dissatisfied noise. "Hey, what's the big idea, calling me at four o'clock in the goddamn morning?"

"Huh?" Jim glances takes his phone away from his ear and stares at the hour on the screen in surprise. Okay, so he's been spending the past few days giving all his attention to Operation Get Spock, and he has kind of lost track of time.

"See, this is what it means to work with stupid kids who decide you're their new chum," Bones complains. Something creaks, probably a bed frame, and Bones huffs in effort as if he's begrudgingly sitting up. "They act like of course you're free when they're free, like it's nuts to think you've got a life of your own. And god forbid they take even a moment to consider their adult pals don't keep the same crazy timetable of getting home at the ass-crack of awful as their little club friends --"

"Look, I'm sorry I called you so late," Jim interrupts. "But I just had to try to get a hold of you as soon as I realized you might be able to help me."

Bones snorts. "Help you work with Spock, huh? What's going on, Jim?"

Jim explains as quickly as possible, reining in the details when Bones groans and tells him he doesn't want to hear all the touchy-feely parts ("at least, not when it's you and Spock touching and feeling, because a man's got to set some boundaries!").

"And I thought of you right away," Jim adds as he wraps up, even though that isn't exactly the truth. "Because you helped the last time. I mean, Janice Rand told me you talked me up to that designer, the one who brought me in on the second shoot I did with Spock."

"Oh, of course, where you first figured out the two of you were destined to be together," Bones says sardonically.

"Uh, not exactly. Because Spock got so mad at me about stuff that happened with Gary that I thought he was going to wring my neck." When Bones makes a disgruntled sound at that, Jim pushes on before Bones can start to grumble again. "But I got to see him again, is the point, and I need to see him again now if I'm ever going to prove to him he's all wrong about us. So I thought, just maybe, if you could do the same thing this time? Help me get in on whatever gig Spock's got lined up next?"

Before Jim can reply, Bones grunts and says something nearly too quiet for the phone to pick up. Jim almost asks him to repeat whatever it was, but when it dawns on him what Bones murmuring softly probably means, he stifles a nervous laugh instead. Obviously he hasn't just woken up his photographer friend but whoever else is in bed with him.

While Jim gears up to apologize once more for being a big jerk and calling super early, he hears a soft litany of complaints from Bones's bed partner. It sounds like whoever else Jim's awoken isn't psyched about having their sleep disrupted, which isn't a huge surprise. But what is a revelation is that it sounds like the person is grumping about the unwelcome wake-up call in Russian.

"Oh my god," Jim blurts before he can think it through. "Bones! You and Pavel?"

"Yeah? What about it?" Bones barks back at him.

"Nothing," Jim says quickly. "I mean, that's cool!" His mind can't help but tick back to remember moments of Pavel trailing worshipfully after Bones on shoots, and how pissed off Bones was when Gary said some pretty suggestive stuff to his assistant. "I mean, whatever makes you happy, right?"

"Well, that's terrific. I'm so glad I've got your blessing; been waiting on it for an age," Bones snaps.

"Tell whoever it is to go away," Pavel murmurs petulantly in the background.

The soothing noises Bones makes shushing him, telling him to "Go back to sleep, darlin'," make Jim grin. Obviously Bones is a big old softie in spite of all his spitting and hissing.

"I'll go away, I promise," Jim vows, keeping his voice quieter this time. "Just tell me before we hang up, will you help me?"

There's a scoffing sound. "Give me one good reason why I should."

Jim grins to himself. The more he gets to know Bones, the more he can tell this kind of crabby foot-dragging is the precursor to Bones agreeing to pretty much whatever he can do to lend a hand. "Because we're friends," he tells Bones confidently.

Bones snorts at him. "With friends like you -- all right, all right. I'll see what I can do for you. No promises, though. The folks over at Spock's agency VSA Unlimited aren't exactly sociable with me, or anyone else for that matter. They like to keep mum about the kinds of gigs they book for their talent, so there's no guarantee they'll let the details slip. I'll have to ferret it out somehow, and damn it, Jim, I'm a photographer, not a super spy."

"Thanks, you're the best," Jim says gratefully. "Anything you can do would be awesome, okay?"

"No promises," Bones reminds him. "But like I said, I'll put my ear to the ground; see what I can find out."

"Tell Pavel I said sweet dreams," Jim can't resist telling him. He ends the call with a snicker when Bones swears at him to mind his own beeswax.

**********

Jim plays it out in his mind in all sorts of ways: how it will go the next time he and Spock are finally in a room together.

He can see himself walking right up to Spock, in the middle of whatever set he's wrangled his way onto, and grabbing a fistful of Spock's shirt to yank him close and kiss him hard.

He can imagine making an entire shoot rife with sexual tension, using playful words and teasing glances to get Spock all worked up (because Jim knows for sure now he can) with a flash of skin and a few smartass remarks.

He can even picture ignoring Spock for the entire job, paying attention to everyone but Spock the whole time, and finding himself whirled around as Spock struggles to maintain control and demands what Jim's game is.

In the end, though, he thinks long and hard about all the things Spock said to him last time, and everything Jim's figured out he wants for all the times to come.

So the day of the job, he heads to the rehabbed factory in Brooklyn where they're booked for the gig with his shoulders squared and his mind focused on exactly what he's gunning for. A P.A. standing guard checks his name and waves him along, and Jim slips inside.

He's playing calm, but he's nervous, sure. So his heart beats faster as he heads inside the huge space where various lighting and prop assistants dart here and there getting things set up. And when he sees Spock in the chair before a lit-up mirror at the side of the room, his handsome face placid and eyes closed as an intent make-up artist does something to his distinctive eyebrows, Jim's breath catches in his throat.

"Geoff M'Benga," a serene-looking guy introduces himself to Jim after ambling up to his side.

Jim clears his throat, and remembers not to run his fingers through his hair and ruffle it. Instead he sticks his hand out to shake as he says, "Jim, Jim Kirk."

M'Benga nods and grasps his hand briefly before he slings another camera over his shoulder. One of his assistants hurries up with a coffee and rushes off again into a crowd of people sorting through gels, but despite all of the hustle and bustle around him M'Benga looks totally unruffled.

After a moment, M'Benga follows Jim's gaze over to Spock, and Jim would swear his shrewd eyes have taken the entire situation in at one go. But all he says is, "Bones told me all about you. He says you're a hell of a hard worker and a serious natural talent, even if you are kind of a pain in the ass."

Jim lets out a surprised laugh at that, pleased when M'Benga gives him a wry smile in return. "That's me all right. Hey, I can't thank you enough, for taking Bones's word and mentioning my name when they were finalizing the models for this job."

M'Benga shrugs and takes a thoughtful sip of his coffee. "Happy to do it, once I saw your portfolio. You'll add a great element to the shoot; we wanted to go for that contrast vibe anyway."

"We definitely have that going on," Jim mutters. He definitely gets that he and Spock clash just as much as they complement one another. And sure, Jim's already made up his mind that's what he wants, difficulties and intense chemistry and all. But that doesn't mean he anticipates convincing Spock to want the same thing is going to be a walk in the park.

"You'll see it with the wardrobe differences as well," is M'Benga's cryptic last comment before he walks off.

Soon Jim's brought over to the hanging wardrobe racks. The next half hour melts away in the whirl of being outfitted (as much as Jim can call what he's wearing an outfit; he'd balked for about five seconds but then quickly decided, hey, he could make it work). Right after that he's shoved over to hair and make-up for everyone else to do their part in making him presentable.

Though Jim makes sure to take a careful look around every so often, he doesn't spot Spock the entire time he's getting ready. But he figures that's just as well. Especially with springing himself on Spock like this, and given what he's wearing? Jim doesn't necessarily want to give up the element of surprise in the game.

It's only when M'Benga calls for the models to take their places at a set-piece of strong-lined furniture and thick luxurious looking rugs that Spock appears again and realizes that Jim is going to be his sole partner for the day.

He halts in his tracks, looking terribly stern and gorgeous as all get-out in the posh slate-grey windowpane suit that looks to have been tailored for him specifically.

"I did not realize," he begins in a low but charged voice, "that we were to have encountered one another so soon."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Jim says. Somehow he's gotten his voice to stay steady, thank god. "I'm sure we can both be professionals about this."

There's the slightest movement forward of Spock's lips, as if he's pursing them together in apprehension for the barest of seconds. "Indeed," he finally responds, turning away from Jim and facing forward, obviously awaiting instructions.

"Over there by the standing divider," M'Benga tells them, gesturing to a structured lavish silkscreen screen placed in front of the background scrim. "You can each take a seat; whichever side you want. We'll probably switch you around at some point."

There are two chairs, heavy and masculine, with intricately embroidered plush seats and thick wooden arms and legs. They're both drawn up to an ornately carved table. Atop the table is the most beautiful chess set Jim has ever seen, the pieces carved with artisanal care, the board well-worn but with a polish that speaks of decades or even longer of loving use. It's arranged for a game to begin, all of the pieces in their typical starting places.

"We'll take a few shots of you playing, before we move on to some other poses," M'Benga tells them while they approach the designated area. "I want to get the contrast of the two sides to this clothing line, the fine suit and the reveal of what we typically don't get to see under the suit. But both of them, and both of you, should be about elegance and comfort. You're two sides of the picture here; neither of you is complete without the other."

Jim says nothing, just waits for Spock to choose his chair, and by extension, the color of the playing pieces. When Spock hovers in apparent indecision, Jim reaches to run a finger over one of the kings, skimming over the tip of it and along its familiar shape.

"You can move the pieces if you feel like it," the prop coordinator calls out where she's crouched down with her clipboard, observing the scene she's set-up with interest. "We can always rearrange them into a different formation later if it looks wonky."

M'Benga adjusts his lens, keen eye focused on the tableau. "That would be great. Spock, Jim, if you could pretend to play as soon as you take your seats."

"I don't think we need to pretend, do we, Spock?" Jim asks calmly. This isn't part of his plan, which, let's face it, wasn't super complicated in the first place. It had pretty much amounted to "get in Spock's face and make him talk about stuff." But there's a swell of confidence rising in Jim as he remembers the way Spock had stopped short at the sight of him, the way Spock had prowled forward toward him. It buoys Jim onward with assurance; he knows what he's doing here, and he can absolutely work with it.

When Spock's eyes flick to him in open question, Jim regards him steadily. "I think we're ready to take each other on. At least, I'm ready for it. How about you?"

With no change in expression, Jim strips off long the terry bathrobe the wardrobe head had tossed his way earlier, revealing the tight heather grey short boxer-briefs he's been given to wear. An assistant is at his side unobtrusively, whisking the discarded robe away. He's got nothing else on, but the briefs fit him perfectly along the curve of his ass and cling to the tautness of his stomach, kind of like the way Spock's suit impeccably follows his lean lines.

Spock's dark eyes flash as they scan down Jim's body and up again. "You have some knowledge of the game?" he asks, his voice tight.

Jim gives him a crooked smile. "You could say that. I ran out of people to play where I lived after I beat out everyone on the chess team in one session."

A distinctive eyebrow arches in clear skepticism of Jim's claim. "Very well. Let us begin."

Jim gestures for Spock to choose his seat, and by extension the color of his pieces, and waits.

After clearing his throat, Spock slides into the seat on the left, picking black. For a moment he manages to look only at the board, though his restless hands adjust his tie and his pocket-square, betraying some barely managed reaction even while his face stays relatively impassive.

"Black it is, then," Jim murmurs while he's dropping casually into his seat.

"So that you might have the advantage," Spock notes as he re-arranges himself in his seat. He seems like he wants to look elsewhere, but time and again his gaze returns to Jim, at the expanse of his naked skin, at the way the briefs hug his body. He pulls his long legs stiffly back so that they won't brush up against Jim's bare calves.

"Already got it," Jim says simply. As soon as Spock meets his eyes, a hint of a startled expression in the moue of his lips, Jim makes his first move.

Someone's put on classical music in the background, a far cry from the types of house or pop music Jim's used to hearing on shoots. It sort of sounds like part of a Haydn symphony Jim remembers his school orchestra playing, something that seems simple at first but builds complexity as it continues.

Strangely, the phrases of strings and wind instruments are practically the only sounds around them aside from the shutter and flash of M'Benga's cameras and the quiet movement of various assistants on the periphery of the action. Though they're in a vast space, evidenced by the rows of windows and stretch of concrete in the immense room beyond where the scene has been set up, everything feels centered around Jim and Spock and the game pieces between them. When M'Benga gives one more instruction, to focus seriously on the board, it's easy to do. Jim doesn't take his eyes off the pieces, unless it's to glance up at Spock to catch his reaction.

"You play illogically," Spock says after he's accepted Jim's gambit and they've moved several times in turn each. He sounds more intrigued than bothered by the realization. "I find I cannot determine your strategy."

"Same as always," Jim says as he takes Spock's bishop. "I'm playing to win."

"Indeed." Spock reaches for one piece and then withdraws his hand, obviously recalculating his tactics in light of Jim's move.

After that the play gets more intense, both of them moving the pieces with deliberation and obvious challenge to each other. A few times, Spock's mouth twitches slightly, but unlike earlier, the facial tell doesn't betray any worry. Instead, he looks almost amused at or even impressed by Jim's decisions.

"You were speaking the truth when you indicated earlier that you have an expertise in chess," Spock observes at one point. He sweeps a hand in acknowledgement to those of his pieces that Jim's already captured and lined up on his side of the table.

Jim meets his eyes. "Well, I'm a straight-up kind of guy. I might sound like I'm bragging sometimes, sure. Or a guy could think I'm not telling him everything, if he's the type to jump to conclusions. But when it comes right down to it, I'm someone you can trust to say what he means."

Spock levels an assessing stare at Jim, considering this. "I am surprised at the degree to which I find you a worthy opponent."

Jim cocks his head to the side. The tip of his tongue darts out to wet his lips before he says, "I'm pretty sure if you let yourself, you'd see me as worthy in all kinds of ways."

Spock steeples his fingers, gazing at the board and the queen that Jim's just put into play. "Fascinating."

They keep on like that for a while. At times Spock seems distracted by the amount of skin Jim's showing; at other times, he seems drawn in by whatever strategy Jim's employing on the board.

Though Jim keeps waiting for someone to interrupt and tell them to switch sides at the table or move on to another area of the set, M'Benga only quietly summons people to get him more film or different lenses and keeps the scene going. After a while, Jim forgets to check on what everyone else is doing, and focuses all his attention on Spock.

Sometimes Spock will set out his knight with alacrity; at other times his slender fingers hover over a rook as he scans the board in strategic assessment. But from the way he regards the board, every so often taking stock of Jim's pose or expression with avid absorption, he seems to have long ago forgotten there are other people in the room.

"You should have moved me into check," Spock says at last. His voice is rich and deep, and Jim looks up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. He's kind of in the zone at this point; it almost feels as though the two of them are working perfectly in tandem rather than competing to win the game. At this point their legs are tangled together, the fabric of Spock's trousers soft against Jim's skin, his body beneath radiating warmth against Jim's bare legs. As they each lean forward to move a piece or recline back with grace (Spock) or sprawl back with assurance (Jim), Jim barely notices while M'Benga moves around them almost silently, capturing their interactions from different angles.

Now, when Spock indicates the square Jim ought to have occupied, the pads of his fingers sweep fleetingly over Jim's knuckles. Jim inhales slowly to stop himself from gasping at the shiver that works up his body at that brief point of contact. That small touch delivers a tiny spark, but it speaks of a larger fire, strong and lasting, waiting behind it.

"And you would have moved right out of it," Jim says softly. "I'm not playing for points with each move, Spock. I want the entire match."

For a time the scene stops as they watch each other: Spock delaying his turn, Jim not bothering to keep his heated gaze from Spock's face.

"You know, you're no slouch at this yourself," Jim tells Spock as the moment stretches on. There's absolutely no reason for him to do it, but he brushes his fingers over Spock's exposed wrist, bare just at the cuff of his finely woven shirt.

Unlike Jim, Spock doesn't manage to hide his reaction at their contact. He draws in a sharp breath, something wild lurking behind the veneer of calm in his eyes. His hand twitches slightly, like he's keeping himself from reaching out in turn and taking Jim's hand in his own.

"I have typically played such games by rules I consider well-established," Spock observes. "Yet perhaps at times, in my readiness to accept the most rational scenario in evidence, I may in fact act in uninformed haste."

Coming from Spock, Jim figures that's as good as hearing Maybe I was wrong. But though part of him wants to crow in triumph at the admission -- because it's pretty clear to him that they're talking about much more than just the chess game -- he doesn't let himself gloat.

So instead, Jim shrugs, letting the smile that badly wants to come out full power just play on his lips. "I see what you mean. I know sometimes I can seem like I'm rushing forward, all spontaneous moves, not thinking things through. But that doesn't mean I don't know what I want. I probably better make that pretty clear, in games like these."

Spock gazes at him. "You will checkmate me in four moves. I must admit, I did not conceive we might...play together so well. This has been most satisfying." He lifts his hand to tip over his king.

Jim reaches out and catches Spock's hand with his own. "It's probably illogical to play the game out anyway." He barely hears the click-click-click of M'Benga's camera capturing the still moment of the two of them poised on the edge of their seats, meeting in the middle where their fingers are now entwined.

Spock's eyebrows rise. "It would be, when I have already conceded. Yet we might, if you wish, make arrangements for a rematch." When Jim doesn't reply right away, Spock says hesitantly, "If you desire such an outcome, of course. I wish only to say, this needn't constitute the conclusion of our...interactions." His solemn brown eyes meet Jim's, waiting.

There's a ton Jim could say to that. Some of it probably involves jumping up and pumping his fist up and down in the air while he shouts out his agreement. Getting Spock to admit something even close to this has been his goal all along, and he almost can't believe they've gotten to this point already. But all Jim does is grin his approval, his smile broad and bright. And judging by the flicker of relief and rush of warmth in Spock's eyes, that's exactly the right response.

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.

Chapter Text

"Jim," Spock says hoarsely, and it's a prayer, a plea. He tosses the towel aside and brings both hands to skim along Jim's gradually warming skin, drops his head to mouth at the juncture of Jim's neck and shoulder.

"Oh fuck," Jim says softly when Spock's fingertips graze over his nipples. His breath hitches as Spock delicately takes one nipple between his thumb and forefinger and pulls lightly.

"I find you irresistible," Spock murmurs. His kisses feather over Jim's upper back and shoulders, even as he keeps two fingers flicking slowly back and forth over his sensitive nipples. The pink areolas seem to entrance him especially; he traces around several times and fingers the sparse golden hairs surrounding them, watching with clear fascination in his dark eyes as the teasing touch makes Jim squirm slightly in his arms.

Before Spock speaks again, he slides a kiss along the shell Jim's ear. "I think of you often when we are parted, even during circumstances when there is no rational reason to do so." If his voice didn't sound strained, Jim would almost think Spock felt annoyed at that illogical propensity.

"Same here," Jim chokes out. "I think about you pretty much all the time." He kind of wishes he sounded more eloquent at the moment. But it's hard to think super clearly when one of Spock's hands drifts lower to thumb over his hipbone reverently, when the other caresses lightly over the line of bronze fuzz leading down from Jim's navel.

"I really love when you touch me," Jim blurts out a second later. "Not just when, I mean, how you do it." Even with the chilled and damp jeans still on, Jim can feel the heat spreading through him, the rush of warmth unfurling through his body as Spock caresses Jim like a much-prized treasure. He relaxes even more, slumping slightly in Spock's arms.

"I find myself in agreement with your assessment," Spock says after a moment. His breathing has become a little irregular, and the press of his erection gets more insistent against Jim's ass every passing second. When he glides a fingertip along the waist of Jim's jeans, their eyes meet again in the mirror. "I thrill to the feel of your touch, even during moments when I am convinced that I ought not to desire it so ardently. And I greatly enjoy the weight of your body against mine. Though I am no stranger to intimacies between two people, I find the experience of holding you in my arms unparalleled."

It takes a moment or two for Jim's fogged brain to process what Spock has just said. But as soon as he does he arches his back and turns his head so their lips can meet.

Instantly Spock's mouth surges against his, demanding and hot. When Jim makes a helpless sound, Spock swallows it whole, devouring him like Jim's the first ripe peach of summer that Spock's been waiting a very long winter to consume. The thought sends a jolt through Jim's nerves; his knees buckle and his head automatically tilts back further in offering.

Somewhere in the back of Jim's head a tiny voice of reason says, wait, hold up -- it just might be a good idea to slow it down a little. After all, he's only just gotten Spock on board with the idea that they're compatible in all kinds of things, not just the physical stuff.

But fuck it, Jim can't wait any longer. Besides, what's the use of having a rep as an impulsive guy if he doesn't seize the moment when it counts?

So Jim officially tells the voice in his head to shut the hell up and reaches his left hand back to twine around Spock's neck. He has to twist his torso so that he can reach Spock's lips and open to Spock's clever tongue delving into his mouth. But any funky twinge in his back is totally worth the minor contortions to get closer, especially when Spock makes a low appreciative sound, cupping Jim's jaw to keep their kiss going.

Before Spock can overthink it all and start saying dumb stuff about taking "liberties" again, Jim fumbles open the button-fly of his jeans with his right hand. He tries to be sort of circumspect as he pulls the fabric apart and starts to shove the material over his hips. But it's not exactly subtle, taking the rest of his clothes off.

Sure enough, he feels Spock stiffen in realization of what's going on.

"Stay with me; don't get lost in that big brain of yours," Jim mutters as best as he can through their kiss. "We both want this, okay?"

Turns out he needn't have worried. Almost immediately after Jim stops speaking, Spock's warm hands join his. Together they're easing off Jim's jeans, shoving them down his thighs until they can fall and bunch at Jim's ankles.

Of course, that's not quite everything. Seriously good justifications for exactly why Jim should get rid of his underwear start filling his head, just in case Spock musters up any objections. But Spock's strong grip at once returns to the waistband of Jim's grey boxer briefs, the ones Jim scored from the shoot.

"Yeah," Jim breathes into Spock's mouth. "Yes, come on, I want you to," he adds when Spock's hand stalls. "Please," he says finally, lolling his head against Spock's shoulder and drawing in a shaky breath.

"Far be it from me to deny you what you want," Spock whispers. He encourages Jim to lean against him and eases down the soft damp fabric until it slips loose enough to join Jim's jeans pooling at his feet.

Jim goes right ahead and lets Spock take his weight as he leans back, trusting Spock to keep him upright. That way he can go ahead and kick away the clothes and shift to seek out Spock's mouth at the same time.

For a moment there's only the sound of breathing and the glide of hands on skin, only the taste of Spock, warm and alluring in kiss after heated kiss.

When Jim wrenches his head away to gasp in a deep breath, he catches sight of the two of them once again in the mirror. And oh fuck, he sort of forgot that Spock's still completely dressed, the color of his clothing blue-grey in the hazy storm-filtered light surrounding them. It's the kind of picture Jim would stare at for hours if he saw it in a magazine: Spock's hands moving with fevered purpose, eagerly roaming over Jim's naked body; Jim standing supported against him, skin glowing golden against the muted backdrop; Jim's body's curves stretching and flexing against the lean lines of Spock's strong frame behind his.

Together they both watch as Spock trails his fingers over and down Jim's torso, a meandering but inexorable path to where Jim's cock, thick and flushed pink, has risen almost painfully hard against his abdomen.

Spock's eyes sweep over Jim's form in the reflection facing them. "You are exquisite," he breathes at last.

In answer, Jim pulls Spock's free arm around his torso, trapping himself willingly in Spock's hold.

"Never have I encountered another I find so alluring," Spock whispers in Jim's ear before he catches the soft lobe in his teeth and bites. He combs through the light brown hair at Jim's groin before he finally, finally curls deft fingers around Jim's erection.

"Spock," Jim chokes out. Dimly he feels his hips roll forward, but he can't take his eyes off Spock's slim fingers stroking his cock. It's like some kind of poetry, Jim thinks in a daze, the vision of the two of them together, the beautiful things Spock's saying.

So of course Jim has to go and make it weird by sneezing again. Not just quick ones either, but big sputter sneezes, three times in a row. At least he maneuvers in time for the last two so he can sneeze into the crook of his arm (and thank god he doesn't whack Spock in the eye with an elbow when he does).

"Okay, sorry, that was gross," Jim starts, his cheeks red.

"Merely an indication that you should be further warmed," Spock decides. He looks unperturbed by Jim's embarrassing sniffles; instead, he steps back, motions for Jim to follow.

"We could, um, the bed," Jim stammers. Because those covers definitely seem like they could heat him up. And hey, add in Spock's hopefully soon-to-be-naked body to the mix, and Jim would call it a winning solution.

But Spock moves resolutely forward, and Jim can do nothing but wander after him.

A few steps more, and he finds himself on Spock's heels in what's obviously the master bathroom. There's a posh looking soaking tub to the right and a large beautifully tiled shower in the corner. The latter is almost entirely open to the rest of the room, aside from a transparent glass wall that probably blocks in some of the steam.

When they're both over the threshold, Spock takes a deep breath. "I would recommend you utilize the spray of the warm water before you dress yourself in the clothes I have provided."

"Seriously, you cannot be thinking of stopping," Jim objects when Spock appears to hesitate. "Come on." He grabs Spock's arm and adds with forced bravado, "Join me? Because you should warm up, too." He grins deliberately, attempts to project the kind of cocky attitude photographers might demand in a scene like this.

For a moment Spock only regards him intently. Then, "As you wish," he tells Jim in that low thrilling voice of his.

"Great, good," Jim murmurs, turning his face to try and hide his huge and now unforced smile.

It takes a few seconds to set up the right temperature (on a hidden keypad behind one of the tiles, which seems pretty damn fancy) and for Spock to get not just one but a couple of shower jets going. But soon there's a steady stream of heated water filling the area.

"After you," Spock says. He stands by a low bench piled with fluffy towels as his hands move to his waist, upturning the hem of his sweater.

Jim has to remember to look where he's going so he doesn't trip over the small step up to the shower. Then he's got to bite the inside of his mouth to keep from beaming like a loon at the thought that he's freaking finally about to see Spock with no clothes on.

"Not that I wouldn't mind a drawn-out show some other time," Jim says under his breath while he watches Spock efficiently strip off his sweater and t-shirt and lay them aside before getting to work on his trousers. The sweep of dark coarse hair on Spock's muscular chest is making Jim's fingers twitch, wanting to curl in and maybe yank a little. If Jim has anything to say about it, any and all modeling deals in the future will hinge on Spock refusing to wax his torso, ever.

"But speedy is good too," Jim goes on. "Because -- and oh my god, you're not wearing anything under -- ow!" It makes Jim's prick jerk, the reveal of the enticing line of dark hair on Spock's stomach widening at his groin, the first full glimpse of that thick cock curving up against that dark background.

Cripes, he didn't think he could get any harder, but his prick's gone rigid to the point where it actually kind of hurts.

"I find many varieties of underwear often interfere with the aesthetic line of tailored garments," Spock tells him calmly. But there's a tiny little quirk to his lips as he slides the trousers over his hips that lets Jim know Spock gets exactly what kind of effect his decision to go commando has.

"Unf," Jim says in a daze as he reaches out a hand to draw Spock toward him.

"Indeed," Spock agrees softly as he joins him.

Jim once shared a shower with the first girl who let him touch her all over, though not the first girl he slept with. But it wasn't anything like this. It's not the understated luxury of their surroundings or the seriously amazing amount of room they have to move around together. Though fair point, that last part's a pretty awesome feature. That other co-showering experience was a cramped, slippery affair that ended awkwardly with bruises on Jim's elbows and a bump on his head.

But no, what's completely different is everything Spock. Not just the hard lines of his body, the accents of dark hair highlighting his trim chest and legs, or the vision of water sluicing off tightly corded muscles and pale skin. It's not even just the definitely welcome view of Spock's erection jutting out, dark with arousal -- though that absolutely makes Jim's mouth go slack with want.

No, it's having Spock exposed to him, not just his stunning body but everything that he is. His dark eyes flash a combination of vulnerability and fierce determination as he watches Jim looking back at him. It's the heady knowledge that no one else gets to see that -- not the other models he works with, not the camera that follows his every move, not the people who pause as they page through magazines or stop short at the appearance of a billboard, taken in utterly by the stunning coolness and hint of fire that Spock exudes. No one gets to see that but Jim, and he wants nothing more than to have that to himself always.

"You're beautiful," Jim says reverently, before he feels his skin heat in a full-body blush at his goofy-sounding words.

Spock doesn't bother answering outright, just pulls Jim close. For a moment he strokes down Jim's neck and over his chest with an inkling of fascination in his expression, mapping the spread of Jim's flush like he's captivated by the behavior of some rare specimen. Then he thumbs over Jim's jaw, a slow drag of finger pads caressing skin, before tilting his chin up so they can kiss again.

For a time Jim just curls against Spock, chests rubbing as they embrace, mouths sliding hot and wet together. His hands grasp Spock's toned back, losing himself in the feel of Spock's strong arms around him as the water rushes over them both.

Then Spock shifts slightly, and instead of his hard-on pressing insistently against Jim's hipbone, it brushes against Jim's cock.

"Oh fuck, that's --" Jim looks down to at Spock's uncut prick surging against his and licks his lips. When Spock reaches down to cradle them together in his right hand and thrusts, Jim makes a garbled noise.

What's left of his brain is pretty damn sure he's going to stumble and land in a bruised wet heap in three...two...one... But lucky for him, Spock manages to keeps him on his feet.

At first Jim just pants, staring down at them together, stiff in Spock's sure grip. He's completely distracted by that meeting of hardness and silky skin. There's no time wasted worrying this is his first time guy-on-guy or scrambling to figure out what to do next, though, because his hips go right ahead and start rolling and grinding on their own. With a breathy laugh, he mouths clumsily all over Spock's neck and face, spurred on as Spock's pace starts to match his own.

Meanwhile, Spock's making these enticing, serious little grunts on every stroke. When Spock's other hand glides down his wet back to caress and squeeze Jim's ass, Jim takes a shaky inhalation and spreads his legs, mostly to keep from crumpling to the ground.

He's brought back to himself a little as Spock moves to turn Jim's random swipes of his mouth over whatever part of Spock he can reach into a proper kiss.

"Thanks," Jim pants before he joins in, mouth again realigned and focused. Spock's lips curve against his, another one of those almost-smiles that makes Jim's heart race more. When Spock slips his tongue back in, Jim's approving noise muffles as he immediately gets into a rhythm, sucking and moaning. The heat building at the base of his spine starts to ratchet up; he's getting closer to the peak with every touch.

He has to rip his mouth away to gasp some frantic breaths, though, and that keeps him from tipping over. Spock cocks his head, watching, waiting. A second later he gentles the contact, changing urgent caresses into soothing strokes, and kisses him softly.

Jim gives him a dozy smile, about to say he just needs a second. But when he looks down again at Spock's hard-on, beautifully thick with arousal, Jim blurts, "Wow, I kind of want that in my mouth. And that's weird --" His nervous gaze snaps up to Spock's unruffled one. "Not bad weird, though. Good weird. Oh my god, I should seriously just shut up right about now."

"I do not mind if you speak," Spock tells him seriously, brushing back Jim's wet hair.

Jim nods jerkily. "Okay, yeah, I just -- now that I said that, I feel like I should mention? I sort of haven't thought ahead to the, uh, actual blow job thing." He can feel his skin heat all over again at the things he has already thought of during different nights back in his apartment in Queens -- fantasies of Spock doing amazing stuff to him that made Jim bite the side of his left hand and try not to let his futon creak to much while his hips juddered harder and harder.

But this, right at this moment? Figuring out what to do with his teeth and tentatively running his tongue along someone else's cock for the first time? It sort of makes what's left of his brain at the moment boggle.

"Not that I don't want to try it, because believe me, I seriously do," he rushes to assure Spock.

Spock's hand is gentle as he strokes soothingly over Jim's temples. Jim tilts his head into the light massage, catching his breath and swallowing. It calms him a little, but it's also tantalizingly intimate, like Spock's figured out some way to delve into Jim's mind and set off all his pleasure receptors with a mere brush of his fingertips.

"It's just, you know, I've never done any of this before with another guy --"

"I am well aware of that fact," Spock interrupts him. His dark eyes flash as they meet Jim's.

Jim watches him nervously, but what he sees in Spock's expression suddenly drains the tension out of him. He smiles a little before he laughs at Spock's almost stern answering look. "Totally turns you on you're the first guy I'm with, huh?" Jim says archly. He smirks a little, prepares for Spock to wave that idea away to deflect his teasing.

But instead -- "Yes," Spock confirms in all seriousness.

Jim's had lots of people tell him they're going to wipe the smirk right off his face. But he's pretty sure Spock's the only one who's ever been able to do it. The harsh claiming kiss Spock pulls him into makes Jim's jaw go slack as he moans, his legs go rubbery as he scrambles to get as close to Spock as he can. He feels like he's falling -- not literally, thank god, because that tile looks hard -- falling into Spock, into a link between them that glimmers just beyond Jim's sightline, golden and shining and all theirs.

It's a little startling when Jim finds himself backed up against the damp wall tiles. "Wait, what?" he murmurs in confusion. But Spock merely continues to arranging Jim as he pleases before he nips at Jim's neck and sucks what's probably going to turn into one hell of a hickey later.

"Remain in this position for the time being," Spock instructs him firmly, like they're in some crazy heated yoga class instead of totally going to town in Spock's enormous extravagant shower. It's hard to take issue with Spock's version of sexy talk, though, not when Spock is readily working his way down Jim's body, lips mouthing and nuzzling, tongue rasping over his nipples, teeth scraping along the soft skin of Jim's belly.

"Fuck, your mouth," Jim moans incoherently as Spock gracefully folds all the way to his knees and kisses first one and then the other of Jim's hipbones. "Never stop doing that," he manages to choke out while he threads his fingers through Spock's wet hair. It's not the hipbone thing exactly -- though that's definitely another item to add to the growing list of stuff he didn't realize turned him on before he met Spock. It's not even the way Spock's lips, in turn teasing and demanding as they're claiming and charting Jim's skin, are possibly the best lips ever. It's the way Spock's so worshipful and possessive at the same time, reverent as he rubs his cheek against Jim's thigh, casually branding him with a steady stroke of his palms over Jim's wet calves.

"As much as it would please me to oblige you," Spock tells him, "were I to follow your command, I would not be able to do this."

With that he places a small kiss on the head of Jim's cock before he takes the shaft in his hand and brushes it over his lips. His eyes close momentarily. With his long black eyelashes fanning his pale cheeks and his kiss-swollen lips slightly parted against Jim's prick, he looks nothing less than transported.

"I'm totally going to fall over and split my head right open," Jim says in faint realization as he keeps his eyes fixed on Spock. If that's the price he's going to pay for Spock's attentions, he half thinks he won't actually mind.

"You will not," Spock pledges. He holds Jim against the tiles with one steady hand, keeping him secured with that easy strength of his. It makes the air gush out of Jim's lungs all at once, and that's even before Spock slides his lips down in a tight ring around Jim's erection.

Jim can't help but let out a hoarse shout of excitement: the overwhelming sensation of that warm wet softness paired with the vision of Spock kneeling in front of him pushes past any reserve he has left. He wants to tug at Spock's hair, wants to dig his fingers into Spock's shoulders, but at the moment it's all he can do to brace his palms against the wall and concentrate on not sliding down.

"I have already said I will not let you fall," Spock tells him after he pulls off Jim's prick with a pop. He looks almost indignant that Jim could ever imagine otherwise.

"But what if I've fallen already?" Jim asks before he can stop himself. It sounds sappy as all get out, but what the hell; he's already decided he's all in. No point in worrying about coming across as love-struck when he's wearing his heart so obviously. So instead of backtracking, he reaches a shaky hand down to cup Spock's cheek. At the touch, Spock's dark eyes slant shut; he turns just enough to place a tender kiss on Jim's palm.

"Then I think you will find that I have succumbed to the same impulse." Spock raises an eyebrow as he looks up at Jim. But before Jim can react to that awesome revelation, Spock once again engulfs Jim's erection in his mouth.

This time Jim's able muster enough coordination to twine his fingers in Spock's hair. He even keeps his thumbs lightly massaging Spock's temples while he ducks his head into his chest to watch. But as the billows of steam keep filling the room, he's pretty much taken over by the feel of Spock closing around him. Now it's the oh-so-soft inside of Spock's cheek; now it's the amazing and heady sensation of Spock swallowing around him.

His hips want nothing more than to pump harder and faster, but Jim does his best to hold back. At least, he knows that girls don't like a guy ramming into their mouths when they're going down on him.

Spock's lips go tighter as he trails dexterous fingertips along Jim's thighs, pressing harder right over his pulse points. But it's only when he actively starts pulling Jim's ass forward, encouraging him with squeezes and more of those determined little grunts, that Jim gets how much Spock wants him to let go. When Jim's finally reduced to snapping his hips forward, helplessly fucking Spock's face and reflexively pulling Spock's dark hair, Spock groans around him, a pleased, victorious growl.

Jim's so far gone he barely catches Spock curling a fist around his own hard-on. But it's not to pull along in time to the rolling of Jim's hips like Jim first thinks (though Jim now suddenly wants to see that really, really badly), but to grip hard at the base and squeeze.

"Ah, fuck," Jim mouths; that Spock is so close just from blowing him definitely starts to send him over the edge. But it's only when he feels Spock stroking behind his balls, up further until he massages the tight sensitive muscle there, that every surface and color around them seems to rush forward and come apart in a splay of lights. It's like the two of them are the still center as the world propels onward at a speed faster than any human can calculate. And when Jim comes, his head thrown back and every muscle tensed with exhilaration, he sees stars.

**********

Though Spock's hard-on juts forward stiff and insistent like it can't wait another second, luckily Spock turns out to be pretty patient through Jim flailing around and needing time to get his breath back. Spock surges to his feet with a fierce light in his eyes, holding him close through the tremors. As soon as Jim's finished with the really big time panting and shaking, though, Spock looks to Jim for a wobbly nod before he helps guide Jim's hand to his erection.

"Bear with me here," Jim can't help but mutter as he starts to slide his hand down Spock's stiff prick. Obviously he knows how to do this part, but never before has he tried it out on another guy. Getting to touch Spock is exciting enough that he can almost forget about that, though.

"Your inexperience is not a detriment to my enjoyment," Spock assures him; there's a quirk to his lips that tells Jim Spock's still feeling smug about being Jim's first guy. If Jim wasn't still pretty shaky coming down from a world class orgasm, he might rib Spock a little about that whole possessive thing.

But why waste time joking around when there's so much Jim doesn't want to miss? Like the flicker of unguarded pleasure over Spock's features as Jim works out a tempo: Jim probably looks a little smug himself at that. Hell, all Spock's tells are so damn subtle; Jim's only just feeling like he's learning to read them. So of course it's enthralling when he figures out just the right pace to stroke and hits on exactly how hard Spock wants it.

As Jim keeps the rhythm up, Spock's eyes flutter. His face relaxes as a wash of vulnerability and bliss transforms it. It makes Jim inhale sharply, a flare of heat in his groin like a bonus aftershock immediately wending through his system.

"Fuck, I love touching you," he says distractedly, unable to keep his eyes from the captivating image of Spock erect in his grip; he's mesmerized by the up-over-down motion, by the feel of Spock getting even harder in his hand. Throw in the accompanying sounds of slick skin-on-skin and their blended quickened breaths echoing on the tile, and Jim feels just as lost in the moment as Spock.

At a small sound from Spock, though, he glances up, pulled back from his absorption to wonder whether he's doing all right.

"Yes," Spock answers Jim's unspoken question, low and hoarse. He braces one palm to the side of Jim's head for balance and uses the other to coax Jim closer so they can kiss.

After one kiss turns into several more, though, they're both breathing hard. Spock falters and brushes his mouth against Jim's desperately, like he can't focus enough to coordinate any better than that right now. And if that isn't a heady feeling, making Spock's control slip, Jim doesn't know what is.

"You're so close, huh?" Jim whispers against Spock's lips.

"Jim," Spock murmurs brokenly.

"Do it, come on," Jim says, his voice husky. "I want to see it. I think I've wanted this ever since I met you, ever since we first touched. I just didn't know how much I needed it until right now."

Spock's hips start stuttering forward, faster and faster. His fingers, entwined in Jim's hair, slip forward to frame Jim's face, like that contact steadies him better than the support of the wall.

"Let me see," Jim whispers. "Everyone gets to look at you on the page, in all those campaigns, but they don't get to see you like this, do they?" He angles so he can catch Spock's thumb in his mouth, biting the soft pad and then sucking on it to the same rhythm of Spock's hard-on thrusting in his fist.

"Only you," Spock agrees in a dazed voice.

A second later his cock pulses. Jim watches avidly as the spurts run over his hand, works to keep stroking Spock through the release. It's only after the last ecstatic shudder, when Spock pants against Jim's cheek and nuzzles him there voraciously, that Jim realizes drops of come must have marked his face. And now Spock's darting out his tongue to lick those remnants off.

By the time they embrace fully again, arms wrapped tightly around each other, Spock's forehead heavy on Jim's shoulder, the water washes the rest of it away.

**********

Spock insists on lathering up Jim after, even though Jim muzzily points out that they're getting seriously pruney. But that last observation's only a half-formed sentence, soon floating away along with the last of the rising steam. Jim lets himself drift, leaning on Spock while Spock soaps his chest and arms, mostly too wrung out and blissful to react much. He does manage to blush all over again, though, when Spock runs possessive fingers over his cock to wash him tenderly.

"That was okay?" Jim finally asks a short while later. At last they're collapsed on Spock's amazing deluxe bed, completely naked, mostly dry, and half asleep. Despite the opportunity to stretch out on the comfy surface and revel in the ridiculously soft bedclothes, Jim finds he doesn't want to stray from his spot sprawled across Spock's chest, his fingers tracing lazy random patterns through Spock's chest hair.

Spock kisses the top of his head. "It was far more than okay," he says in that grave way of his.

"I thought it was amazing," Jim says before he can make himself call back the effusive words.

Spock regards him intently and gives him a sober nod of agreement. To anyone else, Spock would probably look overly serious or maybe even blank-faced, but now it's like Jim can't miss the ardor in his eyes even if he tries. Mischievously, he reaches out to run a thumb along the shell of Spock's ear. It has the slightest hint of a point at the apex, which Jim is pretty sure is the most adorable feature he's ever seen on an ear in his life.

Spock's eyebrows twitch at the touch, as if he's perplexed by the impulse but willing to endure whatever affection Jim wants to bestow on him.

Because he figures he'll go all red when he says the next part, Jim presses his face to Spock's chest before he speaks again. "I hope I can do a half-decent job when I get to try that out on you. Soon, right?"

"It will be you. Because of that, I do not doubt its success."

Jim lets out a muffled snort against Spock's skin. "Wow, not like that's a lot to live up to or anything."

Spock slides his fingers to tip Jim's chin up and meet his gaze. "I entertain no arbitrary requirements or unreasonable expectations. There is only the anticipation of exploring further with you. And you will find in me a most willing subject for all of your investigations in this and similar areas."

Jim smiles widely, even more when Spock traces along his jawline. "You know, if anyone else said stuff like that to me, I might think they came across as weird or stilted. But from you it sounds all kinds of hot."

Spock's look is shrewd, like he's filing that one away for future reference. "I am pleased you perceive my manner of speaking thusly."

Jim's nose crinkles as he smiles and rests his cheek against Spock's chest again. When Spock begins to stroke his hair, his eyes begin to grow heavy.

"What were you thinking?" Jim asks, pausing for a moment to yawn. "That first time?"

Spock sounds like he's about to drift off himself when he murmurs, "Clarify."

Jim props his chin up on his hand, watching as Spock's eyes open again to regard him. "When we met. The first shoot -- I leaned on you and --"

"Ah." Spock runs a thumb over Jim's lips, his mouth quirking when Jim playfully bites at the tip. "I do not know I can explain fully my mental process at that moment. At first I thought to invoke a clause I had some time ago placed in all of my contracts --"

"The No Touching of the Spock, right," Jim says wisely.

Spock looks slightly cross as he says, "It is rather more reasonably stated than that. But essentially, you are correct."

"So why didn't you?"

Spock rests his head fully against the pillow and goes silent. For a few moments Jim thinks he has just fallen asleep and decides he'll just have to wait for his answer tomorrow.

At last Spock replies, "That moment you leaned back against me, I found to my surprise I welcomed your touch. Indeed, I irrationally wished to enfold you in my arms, never to allow anyone else to lay hands upon you again. And though I knew that to be an unlikely scenario, because I had not anticipated that anything like a relationship would evolve between us, I allowed myself, for the duration of that shoot, to behave as though what I imagined might become a reality."

"What did you imagine?" Jim asks, feeling fully awake again.

Under the comforter covering them both, Spock begins to caress along Jim's back, up and down the bumps of his spine. "That you belonged entirely to me."

Well. There's no point in even trying to resist reacting to something fantastic like that. Jim immediately pulls himself up so he can kiss Spock hard.

"I think you're incredible," he says when they finally part.

"The sentiment is returned," Spock tells him.

"And I like that thing you were imagining," Jim keeps on, shyly at first. "I think we should try that out."

Spock's quick inhalation at Jim's words is the equivalent of someone else jumping up and down on the bed, arms thrust skyward in victory. "I would be honored to embark upon such an attempt with you," he says a moment later, his voice rough and gravelly.

"But, uh. Just one thing."

Spock's eyes narrow the tiniest fraction. "Continue."

Jim smiles; it's amazing how even Spock's wariness has become ridiculously charming. "Okay, so you know you're going to have to get used to other people getting all up close and personal with me when I work, right? Because I'm damn good at this modeling stuff, and I'm not going to throw it over just because you get jealous too easily. Sometimes it's going to happen when I book a gig."

Spock nods. "I shall strive to maintain rationality in such circumstances. Be assured I would not have you give up your pursuit of this work. I agree with you that, as you say, you are 'damn good' at it."

Jim laughs aloud at that one. "And trust me," he tells Spock, more serious now. "I know you got upset about the whole thing with -- you know what, let's not even say that jerk's name --"

"Gary Mitchell," Spock says at once, like the name itself is a horrible curse on humanity.

Jim has to bite the inside of his mouth to keep from snickering. "And I get that, feeling fed up when someone's all over a person you care about. But if it's for work, you've got to take my word that you're the one I want. And trust me."

"And trust you," Spock repeats softly, taking Jim's hand. The way he slides his fingers over Jim's, with slow devotion, feels like the completion of a binding vow.

They kiss again, this time softly; it's both a goodnight and a promise. When Jim turns a little, Spock immediately fits himself around Jim's body, tugging to align Jim's back to his chest.

Jim relaxes in Spock's hold with a satisfied little sigh. When Spock insinuates his leg between Jim's so they're tangled together, he feels more than ready to succumb to the wave of tiredness once again trying to pull him under.

"I would ask, however," Spock murmurs in his ear, interrupting that descent into slumber, "that you desist from any unnecessary contact with others during visits to entertainment venues or social gatherings at which musical accompaniment is present."

Jim grins to himself in the growing darkness of Spock's bedroom. "You mean you don't want me dancing up on anyone else."

"Correct."

"Well, you'll just have to make sure you're out there with me, so I can hang all over you instead," Jim suggests. He wriggles to get more comfortable and pulls Spock's arm tighter around his torso. "You know, try to stay close."

Jim's nearly asleep when Spock murmurs, "Indeed, Jim, I shall endeavor to be at your side always."

*~*~* the end *~*~*