Spock looked up from the journal he was reading, standing quickly as Leila flowed into the room. His lover never just walked into a room. She fluttered, almost danced, her steps light and free, her golden blonde hair flowing in waves about her, the patchwork broomstick skirt she wore swirling around her bare ankles. Leila was a true bohemian, a free spirit, and that was what drew Spock to her. Like a moth to flame, he could never resist her. He couldn't understand her most of the time, but that was inconsequential when she smiled at him.
Which she most definitely was not doing now.
“Spock, please don’t try to make sense of this.”
“Make sense of what?” He took the cardboard box she handed him, glancing in it to see his things -- clean underwear, a shirt, two issues of “The Biochemist”, a comb, razor, and his toothbrush.
Spock felt like a parrot, so kept still. Long experience aided him in presenting a collected facade to the world when inside he was bewildered, lost, and hurt. So very hurt.
There was a knock on the door and Spock balanced the cardboard box containing the dross of his life on one hand while opening the door with the other. Standing in the hallway was Mark Stonn, Leila’s publicist. Assistant. Spock was never quite sure exactly what Mark’s job was.
And Mark was holding a box with Linus, the cat Spock had given Leila, as well as all of Linus’ ‘necessities’: cat food, toys, bed, litter.
Spock took Linus who immediately crawled his way up his arm to perch on Spock’s shoulders, his tail twitching. Linus did not like Mark. Neither did Spock. Their suspicions seemed to be corroborated.
Spock turned, about to close the door on Mark, when he stepped, uninvited, into the condo. He set Linus’ box in the middle of the floor, lifting it out of yet another, still larger box. Mark followed Leila who flitted about Spock’s home, collecting all of the accumulated flotsam and jetsam of their year’s long relationship into that single box. He had never before made note or noticed just how little their lives had been intertwined.
“Let’s get a move on, Lei. I want to miss rush hour traffic.”
“Leila, please explain?” Spock asked. He was unsure what was going on, but that was not an unusual state of affairs with Leila. She absolutely refused to follow convention, never called ahead, didn’t even own a cell phone or watch, let alone planned a single detail of her life. Leila lived on a whim, was less stable than nitroglycerin and equally as detrimental to Spock’s brain.
She stopped and turned, stepping close to Spock, her hand resting on his cheek. He leaned into her touch. “Mark and I are moving to an artists’ commune in Nova Scotia.”
Spock blinked, cocking his head, the shock not registering, or maybe the news had shorted out all the axons in his nervous system such that he could no longer move or speak.
“It’s been good, Spock, but... we’re too different. You need order; I feel suffocated by it. I need space to write, and Mark wants to paint, so I’m going with him. I want to finish my novel, Spock. You know how much it means to me.”
Spock gazed impassively at Mark. With his long hair, ratty jeans, suede vest, and Birkenstock sandals, he made Spock want to do something rash; like shout ’This isn’t the 60s!’, or worse -- shove the smirking asshole down the stairs. Instead, he swallowed and cleared his throat, managing to sound somewhat calm when he stated, “I thought that you wanted a more orderly life, a more disciplined life in order to finish your novel.” He stopped, staring at Leila, whose eyes were filling with tears. Seeing them, he softened his tone and gaze even if he knew he was being ‘played’ yet again. Still, he could not change the effect she had on him and he could not bear to see her cry. “However, in light of this revelation, I can attempt to change, Leila, to give you the...space you need to be creative and productive. I did not realize that the order I had imposed on your life was the cause of your recent writing difficulties.”
Leila lifted to her tiptoes and kissed him lightly, her frown pressing against his lips. “I know, Spock. And I’m sorry, but I think this is best. I thought your discipline was what I needed, but apparently not. I am not a chemical imbalance or mysterious strand of DNA.”
He then asked, “Shall I assume that we will not be spending Christmas together, then?”
It was a stupid, stupid question, just reinforced her opinion of him -- how romantic was it really to schedule Christmas festivities? -- but nothing else came to mind. He felt like an idiot once the words were out, but Leila just smiled at him. “It’s for the best, Spock. You can set out your mother’s Menorah and take back all those Christmas decorations. There’s still time to get your money back.”
He merely gazed at her, once again unable to argue with her. He had been willing to put aside his culture and traditions for her, but now he’d be alone and the fact that he’d planned to... No, he was not thinking about the small velvet box tucked away in his sweater drawer.
The door closed behind them and Linus jumped down, purring softly and winding his way around and between Spock’s legs.
Spock dropped to the sofa, unable to get past the very simple fact that he’d be spending the rest of the holidays alone.
“Jim? Jim, are you all right?”
Jim Kirk looked up from the steaming latte he held in his hand, the latte he’d just sugared to perfection and was looking forward to. Figures. Gary would choose that moment to dump this pile of garbage on him just as he took the first sip.
The words Gary Mitchell had just spoken were filtering through the bone of his hard head, seeping into the delicate cells and synapses, winging their way through his brain and nervous system via singing nerves to stab him directly in the heart.
“I’m really sorry,” Gary said. His hands were waving about his head, something he did when he was nervous or high on caffeine. Jim was sure Gary was on like his fifth cup of espresso; his right hand was fluttering, a sure sign that Gary had been at the coffee shop for a while. “It’s just that--God--I’m so sorry.”
The conversation swirling about the small cafe faded to a low buzz in Jim’s ears. Jim, I’m seeing someone else. He’s amazing and he works with kids and you should see him, Jim. He just gets what I want to do eventually. Not that you haven’t understood me. I’m seeing someone else. Someone. Else. Someone. ELSE.
Gary looked at him with concern, real concern, and placed his hand on Jim’s wrist. Jim felt it but his brain was still processing Someone else someone else someoneelsesomeoneelse. “Jim, I’m sorry, but it’s been like this for the past six months. I call, and it takes days for you to call me back. I make dinner and you don’t come home. I’ve gone to bed without you more times than I can count. I know you and Nyota have been tied up with your new documentary, and I’m proud of you, I really am. It’s going to be awesome and I’m looking forward to it, but--” Gary gave a slight hitch as he drew a breath after spewing out words that had been pent up and worried over and carefully crafted for the past two weeks in his head. “I feel like you abandoned me. Did you even notice that I’d moved out of the loft?”
That got his attention. “What? You moved out? When?” Jim’s hand trembled as it picked up the mug, a mug that felt like it weighed a ton now. Why the hell did he put in all that sugar?
Gary gave him a weak, sad smile. “Jim, I’ve been gone for a week.”
“Good thing you never gave up your apartment,” Jim snarked immediately. His hand dropped, and the mug hit the table with so much force that half of the latte sloshed over the rim to puddle on a good portion of the small table. “Fuck.” Jim shook his hand. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he muttered under his breath. He looked up. “I’m sorry,” he muttered.
“It’s all right.” Gary ran his hands through his thinning hair. “Maybe--maybe it is good I didn’t break my lease because I’ve been spending a lot more time there than at your place.”
A chill ran through Jim. “Have you slept with him?”
Gary looked startled. “Who?”
“Him. This guy who works with kids and is amazing and clearly not me?”
Jim watched as Gary’s mouth fished around for the words. He knew Gary well, knew him well enough to know that he was going to roll out with a lie. “You know what, I don’t want to know. You’ve made your mind up.” Jim stood.
“Wait!” Gary held his hand out, touching Jim’s forearm. Jim flinched, as if Gary had slapped him. “Wait.”
“Wait for what, Gary?” Jim said, pulling his jacket from his chair. “Wait for you to try to explain this all away? Wait for you to just run all over me, telling me this is my fault?”
Gary gaped at him. “This is your fault, Jim.”
“Oh, that’s rich, Gary.” Jim knew he was in public and knew he was getting wound up, but seriously? Gary was accusing him of breaking them up? He took one step forward, right into Gary’s personal space. “Oh, yeah, like I made you sleep with him, right?”
“Jim, please.” Gary held up his hands, placing them carefully on Jim’s biceps. “I’m sorry, this isn’t--look, this is just like how all your other relationships go. You get involved, you get busy, you completely ignore them.” Gary gripped him tighter. “It’s a pattern with you. You have no skills to make priorities or compartmentalize. It’s all or nothing with you. And until you learn how to balance your life, Jim, your relationships are always going to end up like this.” Gary let go. “However, it’s also what makes you a damn good documentary filmmaker. All that passion gets directed away from the person you love and into your work.” He gave Jim a soft smile as he touched Jim’s cheek with his fingertips. “I’m sorry I wasn’t enough to keep that passion directed toward me. Someday, I hope you’ll find someone who is.”
All the words he wanted to throw in Gary’s face, all the evidence of his love for Gary, all the anger bled away, and he sagged as he realized there was truth in what Gary said. “Gary--”
“No. Don’t. I’m fine. I hope you will be too.” And with that, Gary leaned in and gave Jim a quick, chaste kiss, then turned and walked away.
Jim stood in the middle of the coffee shop, just staring at Gary’s retreating figure. “That was harsh, dude,” he heard from behind him.
Dawaine, the dredd-locked bus boy, was looking at Jim and then at the door. “Dude just handed you your ass, right here in the middle of the store. Didn’t have the decency to do it at home or something.” He had a moue of distaste on his face.
Jim gave him a weak grin. “Maybe he wanted to make sure I didn’t cut his head off with a butcher knife or something.”
Dawaine’s eyes grew wide. “Would you do that, man?”
Jim barked a short laugh and clapped Dawaine on the shoulder. “Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know now, huh?”
He turned and followed the same path out of the door and into the San Francisco winter, leaving Dawaine to ponder if one of their favorite customers really had it in him to kill someone.
“So what else did he say, sweetie?”
Jim paced up and down in the small editing room. “He told me his cheating on me was my fault.”
Nyota Uhura snorted. “That is just so Gary. He’s like that, always passing the buck, or, in this case, passing blame from himself to you. God, I could just smack him. Next time I see him, remind me to do that.” She crossed her arms in disgust.
Jim smiled at his fiercely loyal partner. Nyota Uhura hadn’t always held him in such high regard. Oh no. When first they met, at a student mixer in the graduate filmmaker school, Jim, admittedly, had acted like an ass; a big, mostly drunken one. But Jim couldn’t help himself because, God, she was just so gorgeous and he wanted her to notice him, and that had totally backfired. She had looked on him like he was a low-life and that set the tone for their relationship for the next year.
Until that time in class when Jim Kirk supported her viewpoint on the role of documentary film in American cinema. He had meant it and the look she gave him was one of such gratitude that he knew he’d finally gotten into her good graces. After class they met for coffee, talking through the afternoon about their favorite documentaries and filmmakers as well as their hopes and dreams for the future. And that was the start of Enterprise Films.
“So then what happened?” she asked.
“He walked out.” Jim leaned against the editing desk and hung his head. “Goddammit, Nyota. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I keep a relationship going long term? Is it me? Is it the job? What?”
Jim’s heartbreak filled his handsome features. Nyota was moved to rise from her chair to embrace him. “I’m so sorry, Jim. I really am.” She hugged him closely. “Look, maybe Gary wasn’t the right person for you. He’s a 9-to-5’er; he never understood that making a film takes hours and hours of work at odd times. We have deadlines to make and grants to track and sponsors to answer to.” She hugged him hard once again, then patted his back. “Speaking of which, we need to do the next round of invoices for the Ford Foundation.”
Jim sighed. No time to brood, asshole. Work to be done. “Right. And we need to cut another trailer for them.”
Nyota sat at the console and pulled up several files on the large Mac screen. Jim sat beside her, shuffling through the stack of time cards, oral history release forms, expense vouchers and lists of digital files. “Here,” he said, pointing at their master file list, “be sure to add this bit starting at 12:45. It was dynamite stuff.”
“Oh, you’re right, that was good,” she replied. Her fingers danced across the keyboard as she input the information. The screen filled with the image of a young man.
Jim watched, his mind only partially engaged with the footage they’d filmed for the project that had consumed so much of their lives over the past year. Archival research, tracking down sources and convincing them to talk about their experiences, editing, re-mixing, writing the master narrative--all of it took time and energy, time stolen from personal relationships and energy re-directed from maintaining a life beyond work. When they started Enterprise Films they were determined to keep it small, just the two of them, a production team and a field crew. They wanted to retain total control over the research, the message, the way in which their conclusions were presented--everything. Their contracts with sponsors were very specific about Jim and Nyota demanding that level of independence with their project. And it paid off in the form of awards and critical success and project sponsorship for years to come. This film had been particularly time-consuming, but ultimately, one of the most satisfying ones yet. Jim was proud of it, proud of Nyota’s brilliant writing, proud of his entire team’s effort.
But to what end? He wanted to have love and someone to spend his life with. IS it possible to have meaningful work and a life outside that work?
He rubbed his hands over his face and looked down blearily into the pile of work before him. They were in the home stretch--just final touch-ups, a trailer for the foundation, a final report that wasn’t due until mid-January. Then, they’d present the film to the foundation in February. Then onto the next project.
But for now. . .god, he was so tired. So wrung out. Every part of him hurt, especially his heart. Since they were close to finishing and it was the holidays. . . .
“Hey, what’re you doing for Christmas?” he asked suddenly.
“Christmas?” Nyota replied, distracted. “Um...I’m staying here.” She clicked and dragged a section of the file to the editor. “Family is here. Mama and Papa will be here, staying at my brother’s in Oakland. Why?”
“Well, I don’t really want to go to Iowa.” Jim stood and started pacing again. “My mom was here for Thanksgiving and you remember what a clusterfuck that was.” Jim loved his mom, but trying to work and entertain her was. . .well, Jim didn’t want to think about that again. “Besides, I already sent her the family gifts. Now that Gary is gone . . .” He stopped and closed his eyes. Dammit. He took a deep breath and started again, “Now that I’m free again, I think I’m gonna get away. Go some place different. Different people, different things to do, different scene.”
Nyota looked away from the computer, and gave him a bright smile. “I think that’s a great idea. I was hoping you’d want to take some time off. I haven’t seen my parents in a while and I’m hoping we can go as a family to Las Vegas or something.” She reached for his hand, which he gladly gave her. “Let’s finish this tonight, and take some time off, okay? Go away, Jim. Get your head, and your heart, on straight and we’ll start back on this right after the new year. Okay?”
Jim gave her hand a squeeze. “Agreed. You’re the best, Ny.”
“Of course I am. And I’m gonna prove that to you right now by making the most awesome trailer. So sit your skinny ass down, and help me.” She turned back to the computer screen and moved the mouse to the file.
Jim smiled as he picked up the master file list. She really was the best.
“Spock?” Leonard waved a print out as he strode into Spock’s lab. “What the hell is this?”
Spock straightened, turning away from the computer screen to regard Leonard with a stony dispassion. “I can only answer your query if you would kindly stop flapping the paper at me so that I can see it.”
Leonard pulled up short, two steps from Spock’s desk, and crossed his arms over his chest as he looked at his friend. No one else would be able to see it, but something was eating at Spock. His normally immaculate desk was still tidy, but, for Spock, it was bordering on chaos. Frowning in concern, he tossed the report onto the desk as he pulled up a chair.
“This has typos in it, Spock. And the figures are out of order.” Leonard refrained from saying any more. “Are you sick?”
“Leonard.” Spock’s voice held a faint vibration, a barely discernible quaver that only Leonard could have detected.
“Spock, you all right? What happened?” Leaning forward, Leonard touched Spock’s forearm. “Are your parents okay?”
Spock slumped. “My parents are well,” he answered, face turned down.
“Then what? Why’re you here? You’re supposed to be on vacation.”
“I had an insight that I wanted to verify.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Spock. You can’t get away with it, not with me. I know you.”
“Very well.” Spock straightened, his inflection deadening, losing all tonality. “Leila left. She and Mark are moving to an artists’ commune in Nova Scotia.”
“Sonuva--” Leonard started, but caught himself. His righteous fury wasn’t going to help Spock right now. He crowded closer, but Spock wouldn’t meet his eye, and softened his tone. “I’m sorry, Spock.”
Spock stiffened, his gaze shifting to the window.
Leonard ran his hand through his hair, sighing. “Look, you may not want to hear this, but I gotta be honest. I don’t think Leila was that good for you. She’s been dragging you down, messing with your head... and your heart. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but I’m betting this will be a good thing.”
“A good thing?” Spock rounded on Leonard.
“I mean later, when the hurt isn’t so bad.” Leonard groped for the right words to explain. “Sometimes, without us knowing it, we get into a routine, get into a relationship where we’re not happy. Not exactly slit-your-wrists miserable, but not in a good place.”
“And how would you know this? Your marriage--”
Leonard held up his hand. “Isn’t the point. All I know is that you’re not the same. Hell, we haven’t done one of our fishing trips to the cabin in ages,” he sighed, knowing he was probably fucking this up royally. Talking to Spock about emotions required precision. “She’s been sucking the life out of you, so I say good riddance!”
“You truly believe that?” Spock asked and Leonard nodded.
“I think it’ll turn out for the best. You’ll see.” Leonard didn’t say how fervently he hoped there were still happy endings out there.
Spock cocked his head. He didn’t crack a smile, but his dark eyes were no longer flat and lifeless. “Thank you, Leonard.”
“Don’t. We’re friends, Spock. You’ve been propping me up for awhile now. It’s about time I returned the favor.” Leonard tugged Spock into a quick, hard guy hug, laughing as Spock awkwardly patted Leonard’s back. “‘Sides, this report is shit and you’re on vacation. Let me at least get you drunk to celebrate.”
“I do not think--”
“Poor choice of words. I meant, let’s go drown our sorrows.”
Spock looked about the room and was about to argue. But Leonard wasn’t having it. “Just stop right there. This is required. And it’s only logical.”
“How is it logical to consume copious amounts of alcohol which is a depressant when one is already melancholic?”
Leonard pulled at Spock’s arm. “It’s logical to hold a wake for the death of a relationship. It’s called ‘closure’, Spock. And don’t argue with me. We’re going to Sweet Georgia’s and you’re going to get shit faced, probably cry, then move on.”
“That is your prescription for a broken heart?”
“Doctor’s orders and lots of experience.” Leonard gave him a smile. “C’mon, Spock. You’ve spent so much time looking after me the past few years, let me do this for you.”
“If you insist.”
Jim stared at the computer screen. He needed a vacation, but it’d been so long since he’d taken one, let alone planned one himself... he swallowed thickly. He was not going to think about Gary Mitchell. Not when that ass was the reason that he needed a fucking vacation in the first place!
The web was remarkably unforgiving, offering him too many singles cruises or all inclusive vacations at places that he couldn’t… wouldn’t return to. He had enough reminders of Gary without vacationing where they’d shared happier times. It was difficult to think that he and Gary were done. Through. Their relationship vanishing quietly like the fog that burned off over the bay. No fireworks, just blink and you miss it gone.
What kind of asshole was he that he didn’t even notice that Gary’d moved out?
Jim took a long, shuddery breath and started another search. He was determined to get away, to take time for himself, and to finally be alone with his thoughts. Figure out his head and heart.
The house rentals looked promising, but he honestly didn’t have the heart for exotic locales. He wanted simple. Easy. Domestic. Something far enough away, but still close enough that he could return if things imploded without him. He still couldn’t let go.
Sad thing was early on he and Gary had been living apart, in separate cities, each so busy establishing their careers that they ended up meeting ‘in the middle’ and blazed a trail through most major US cities, leaving Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, NYC, and even Santa Fe off limits, not to mention Miami and LA.
And Jim definitely didn’t want to stay at a remote ranch in Wyoming! He was no Brokeback Mountain cowboy. He snorted and kept scrolling. There were some beautiful places on offer, but none of them… hold on! A cottage in Savannah.
He’d never set foot in the south and had to admit that the picture of the place was gorgeous, nestled in a quiet, tree-lined street, a riotous garden out front, the place was... quaint. Cozy. So unlike his own loft which was all wide open, high ceilings, large windows with the bay glittering in the distance. Still, it sounded right up his alley, the perfect distance for… what day was it even?
Jim looked at the calendar and shook his head. Mid-December. The cottage wasn’t available until after New Year’s. Of course not. Who wanted to leave a picture postcard home during the holidays?
He continued perusing the site until a condo in Atlanta caught his eye. It was quite simply gorgeous. Not as large as Jim’s loft, but elegantly appointed with a wall of windows. He’d be in downtown Atlanta, close to everything. Much more his style.
He clicked on the contact owner box and began typing…
JTK81: Is your condo available for rental? And soon? If so, you’d be a real lifesaver. If you are interested, please contact me.
Almost immediately his laptop pinged with a reply.
SS77: I am extremely interested, but the condo is only available for home exchange.
“Home exchange?” Jim thought.
SS77: We switch houses, cars, everything. I have not done it previously, but associates of mine have.
SS77:Where are you?
Jim perked up. He was seriously considering this, trading his life for another’s. All to get away from Gary… from the memory of Gary.
JTK81: San Francisco.
SS77: I have never been, but I have always wanted to visit the Bay Area.
SS77: I am Spock.
SS77: I am normal. Very meticulous, neat, non-smoker. I do have a cat, Linus. And I am single. Newly so.
JTK81: I’m Jim. I’m normal-ish, maybe a bit of a workaholic. Also newly single and not allergic to cats.
JTK81: I think your condo looks like just what I need. Far removed from my life.
SS77: Thank you. I find it... convenient and surprisingly serene. You wish a break from your newly single life?
SS77: I understand. All too well. What does your place look like?
JTK81: Larger than yours.
SS77: That is... surprising.
JTK81: But it’s home. A converted loft with a spectacular view. I like it.
SS77: I confess to being... intrigued.
JTK81: Can I ask you one question?
SS77: Of course.
JTK81: I’m gay. Will that be a problem?
JTK81: In Atlanta, I mean?
SS77: Being gay in Atlanta no longer carries the same stigma that it once did. Are you interested in the ‘gay scene’?
Jim grimaced. He hadn’t been effectively single in a long time, but it’d been even longer since he thought of being on the hunt. Sighing, he answered Spock. He missed the idea of Gary, the sense that he was part of a couple, that he had a sure thing and didn’t have to deal with the club scene, or any scene, but he couldn’t summon up the actual feeling of missing Gary. He really was a dick.
JTK81: No! Most definitely not. Maybe never again.
SS77: When would you like to schedule the exchange?
Jim stared at the screen. Before he could back out, he typed.
JTK81: Tomorrow too soon?
Spock did not answer for the longest time and Jim began to re-think his question. He had sprung this on the guy.
SS77: Tomorrow would be acceptable.
Jim smiled, relieved and excited.
JTK81: Awesome! We’re on!
JTK81: Thank you, Spock.
SS77: My pleasure, Jim. I find myself anticipating the next two weeks.
And so did Jim.