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If You Can't Dance to This, It Doesn't Matter

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Jim walks out of his Algebra classroom to see the tableau laid out in front of him: Johnstone and his football goons standing in a loose circle, that quiet new kid with the bowl cut shoved up against a locker. There's harsh laughter and Johnstone tosses Bowl Cut's heavy bookbag at Marquez, the linebacker; it immediately gets upended and books and pens are dumped all over the floor.

Bones was right behind him and is probably saying something bitchy about the fact that Jim's blocking the doorway, but Jim can't hear because all of his attention is trained on the scene in the hallway. He moves without conscious thought and feels a hand on the back of his jacket, trying to yank him out of this business that has nothing to do with him, but it's so easy to shrug off.

"Hey asshole," he says loudly. His voice echoes in a sudden, striking silence. There's a bit of a crowd drawing around now, in the bustle of classroom changes.

Johnstone turns around, a fistful of Bowl Cut's shirt still wound up in his hand.

"The fuck do you want, Kirk?" he growls.

"I want you to find a brain donor. Barring that, maybe you could let that kid go and clean up all this shit from the floor."

"How many times do you have to be told to mind your own business?" Johnstone snaps, but he releases Bowl Cut and turns all his attention to Jim.

"How many times do you have to be told to mind your manners?" Jim shoots back. "Didn't your mama teach you to play nice with others?"

"No, but your mama taught me a few things."

Jim smirks down at the floor as the crowd of rubberneckers laughs nervously. He tenses and relaxes all of his muscle groups, preparing for a fight, and when he looks up again, calm, he makes eye contact with Bowl Cut. Why are you still standing there? he thinks at the kid silently, his face expressionless. Can't you see I'm being the distraction and it's time for you to book it?

"What I'd like to know," Jim says, locking eyes with Johnstone, "is where you learned to suck dick so well, Cupcake. It wasn't from my mama."

He feels fierce satisfaction when Johnstone rushes him, and easily deflects two wild punches aimed at his head before striking hard with his elbow, into the solar plexus. Johnstone staggers back and Marquez and Giotto step forward, their eyes on their leader. Jim shifts his weight to the balls of his feet, happy to take on all three of them, but Mr. Pike comes sailing into their midst to break up the fight before it can get really good.

"Kirk! Johnstone! Office, now. Everybody else, get your butts to class! Move it along!"

Jim sees two things in passing as Pike marches him down the hall to the principal's office: Bones scowling from the doorway of the Algebra classroom, and Bowl Cut still standing in the same place, staring at him.

***

"It's just a few days of detention," Jim mutters, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans.

"This time," Bones snaps. "You're going to end up expelled and in juvie one of these days."

"I couldn't let those neanderthals beat the poor kid up!" Jim exclaims. "He's barely even had time to adjust to being here, forget the bullying."

"You've never even spoken to him!" Bones says, flailing his arms a little as they walk across the lawn. "I don't think he needs you to be a white knight."

Jim looks away, irritated, and spies Bowl Cut sitting alone under a tree. "See ya, Bones," he says, cutting him off mid-tirade, and impulsively makes a beeline for the tree.

Bowl Cut is completely absorbed in a textbook; a brown lunch bag sits crumpled and forgotten at his side. His neck is a pale, elegant curve as he hunches over the book. Jim studies the line of it for a moment before dropping into a sitting position.

"Hi," he says.

Bowl Cut's spine stiffens and he looks up cautiously. Jim can see the instant he's recognized; instead of returning the greeting, the kid blinks at him.

Good thing Jim is unflappable. "What are you reading?" he asks.

"Physics. What are you doing?" Bowl Cut answers. His voice is calm and clear, measured and smooth.

"I'm sitting under this tree, enjoying my lunch hour," Jim answers with a grin.

"That is not what I meant. Why are you speaking to me?"

Bowl Cut, Jim realizes, is his age, although he initially looks young, maybe because he's skinny and quiet. He's not in any of Jim's classes, though, or at least not the ones Jim occasionally shows up to.

"Sorry," Jim says, "my bad. We're doing this out of order." He puts a hand out toward Bowl Cut. "My name's Jim."

"I am Spock." Spock eyes his hand but doesn't move to shake it.

Jim pulls his hand back and drops it into his lap. "Johnstone and them are kind of morons," he says.

Spock stiffens even more. "I had that situation under control. Your intervention was unnecessary."

"Are you sure? Those guys are each, like, twice your size."

"I am trained in unarmed combat," Spock says, his voice still toneless. "I could have subdued them. The situation had not yet escalated to a point where such action was warranted."

"Right," Jim says, "so dumping all your stuff on the floor while you were pinned against a locker wasn't escalated enough. Good to know."

Spock's shoulders tense visibly. "Your concern is appreciated," he says quietly. "Were you punished?"

"Detention," Jim says flippantly.

Spock gives him an alarmed look, and Jim grins.

"If a week went by where I didn't land myself in detention at least once, every teacher in this joint would have a simultaneous heart attack. Don't worry about it. I fight with Johnstone all the time. He has issues."

"I see," Spock says, sounding as if he really doesn't see, but doesn't want to ask.

Jim settles back against the tree trunk and peers up at the sky.

"You do not have a lunch to eat?"

Jim shrugs. He usually doesn't.

Spock reaches into his crumpled lunch bag and pulls out an apple, which he hands to Jim without a word.

"Thanks," Jim says, smiling for once without meaning to. Spock leans back against the tree beside him and props the book on his thighs as Jim takes a loud bite.

***

Spock spends his lunch hour under that tree every day. Jim takes to ditching Bones (to much bitching, but they already spend so much time together that rumours are starting to spread) and sauntering out onto the lawn to join him. Sometimes they talk and sometimes they just sit there; Spock usually has some kind of homework or extracurricular reading handy, and Jim likes to people-watch. Spock also seems to like sharing his food with Jim. Jim is toying with the hypothesis that Spock has actually started bringing extra, just for him.

The public nature of their hanging-out has an effect on the school; certain people, such as Johnstone, seem to start leaving Spock alone now that he appears to be under Jim's protection. Other people have probably started avoiding any opportunities at friendship, since Jim has a bit of a reputation. The rumours about Jim and Bones fade away, at least as far as he can tell. Bones makes the occasional disparaging comment about boyfriends and standing lunch dates as Jim ditches him.

It's comfortable, if static, but Jim gets careless and starts letting his guard down a little around Spock, which throws a wrench in things one day.

Spock has a laptop with him, and he's typing busily as Jim drops onto the grass; he barely looks up to nod a 'hello'.

"Whatcha doin'?"

"I am working on an assignment for my programming course." Spock finishes a line, clicks something on the touchpad, and then makes a quiet, frustrated noise. "It will not compile."

Jim's curiosity kicks in and he leans over to peer at the screen. Lines and lines of code, the syntax meticulous and almost beautiful-looking. Then he sees it, and leans farther into Spock's space to point at the screen. Spock's body is warm and very solid where his shoulder presses into it and he smells faintly nice; Jim blinks, distracted.

"Here," he says, jabbing a finger at the screen. "You forgot to call the method for this line."

Spock stares at the screen, scrolls up slightly, and then turns to stare at Jim. Jim realizes abruptly how much body contact they have (Spock is not a fan of touching people) and sits up straight.

"What?" he says.

Spock gives him an inscrutable look. "You know Java?" he asks finally.

Jim shrugs a little, looking away. "And some C, and Python. It's kind of a hobby, I guess."

Spock fixes his code and compiles it again; it works this time. "Thank you," he says, still looking a little bewildered.

"Is something wrong?" Jim asks, feeling the heavy weight of dread. "You look freaked."

Spock shuts the laptop and turns to face him. "You do not act like someone who is competent in multiple programming languages. I have known you for a month and all this time, something so fundamental as your intelligence has been hidden."

Jim does this to himself, really. "I said it's just a hobby."

"You are skilled at math, are you not." Spock gives him a level stare as he says it; it is not a question.

Jim answers anyway. "Yeah, I guess."

"The sciences?" Spock prods.

Jim looks off across the lawn, at a group of girls that just walked outside. "Pretty good knowledge in physics and chem," he says vaguely, pretending it isn't a big deal. It isn't, really. Except that this is Spock, looking at Jim as if he's never seen him before, and so it actually is.

"Fascinating," Spock says, and then he stands up. "I must go." He throws his lunch bag into Jim's lap—there's an apple inside—and picks up his bag and computer to walk off across the lawn.

Jim pulls out the apple and stares at it. He fucked up. Somehow. Again.

***

Jim goes out to the tree the next day anyway, and amazingly, Spock is there, as always.

"Hi," Jim says, awkwardly moving to sit down. "Look, Spock—"

Spock interrupts him, as if he wasn't even listening. "Please rate your current knowledge on the subject of exothermic reactions."

Jim is thrown for only a second; mostly he's relieved. "Um? Pretty solid, I guess. I once made thermite for a sixth grade science project."

Spock blinks. "Was it functional?"

Jim grins, filled with nostalgia. "I almost got expelled."

Spock raises an eyebrow. "I ask because I am entering a state science fair and would appreciate outside input on my planned exhibit."

"You're gonna blow shit up in the name of science?" Jim asks, a little excited despite himself.

Spock's lips twitch, just a little. "Indeed."

"Spock," Jim says, "you had me at 'exothermic'. What's the plan?"

Spock reaches into his bag for his notes.

***

It's like a floodgate's been opened; they spend entire lunches talking about nerdy things like Lorentz manifolds and computer architecture and whether Spock can build a functional bomb calorimeter in the two months before the science fair. Spock lends Jim a book on Haskell, which they argue about even as Jim reads it while sitting under the tree, eating the half a sandwich Spock has given him that day.

One day, Jim shows up at the tree with his Spanish textbook. Spock gives it a curious look.

"Test this afternoon," Jim explains. "Don't know my vocab yet. And hey, be impressed. You know I trust a person when I start studying in front of them."

"You never mentioned that you were enrolled in Spanish," Spock says. They have no classes together; it's easy to forget.

"Requirements," Jim says, settling his back against the tree trunk and cracking open the book to chapter seven. He shows up to Spanish regularly, mostly because Uhura is in that class and he's been on a low-level mission to get into her pants ever since meeting her back in tenth grade. These days, though, he's mostly defaulted to teasing, and she seems to actually have her eye on Bones, the tasteless bitch. Jim will just count himself lucky.

"Are you confident that you will pass your test?" Spock asks, sounding doubtful at the fact that Jim's studying about an hour before it's supposed to start.

"Sure," Jim says. "I can speak it fine."

"I hope that it is at least an improvement upon your ability in English."

"Spock!" Jim says, setting down his book in surprise. "That was a joke! Be still, my heart!" He clutches at his chest dramatically.

Spock stares off into the distance for a second, his face the picture of calm annoyance. "I merely regret that I do not speak the language, so I cannot be useful to you in your memorization."

"Don't worry about it. I'll pass," Jim says, turning a page.

He looks up again after a moment, and Spock is giving him a thoughtful look.

"What? Something on my face?" he says.

Spock shakes his head. "Demonstrate your Spanish skills for me. I admit to some curiosity."

"You mean you don't believe me. Fine. No hay problema." Jim clears his throat and looks right at Spock, whose hair is shining black in the sun. "Te quiero. Quiero besarte con lengua y despeinarte," he says.

Spock furrows his brows. "I do not have any idea what you said."

"Thought not," Jim says, and goes back to his studying. Spock settles beside him, cracking open an ever-present textbook. Their shoulders are pressed against each other, and Jim smiles to himself.